Pixel Scroll 1/24/23 Reverse The Scrollarity Of The Pixel Flow

(1) CHICON 8 SHARES FEEDBACK. Chicon 8 chair Helen Montgomery today published the latest of her “Messages from the Chair” dealing with some postcon housekeeping, and with a long passage apologizing for or explaining some decisions that were made. Here are two of the most significant items.

Credit for Hugo Awards Finalists (Translators and Colorists)

S. Qiouyi Lu brought to our attention the exclusion of translators’ names from the written works in the “long listed” works in the detailed results for the 2022 Hugo Awards, explaining the importance of proper credit for translators in a Twitter thread here: https://twitter.com/sqiouyilu/status/1566762259187060736. We have posted a corrected set of detailed results at https://chicon.org/home/whats-happening/hugo-awards/, in which we have included the translators for the written works and colorists for the graphic novels. 

As part of the administration of the Hugo Awards, we endeavor to list all relevant creators on the final ballot presented to voters, and this includes confirming the correct ballot citations with Finalists themselves. The long list in the detailed results released after the Hugo Award ceremony is a different matter: it is required by the WSFS Constitution primarily for transparency into our processes, and has the side benefit of pointing folks to works that garnered significant community interest so they can go seek them out on their own. As noted in the detailed results, we do not vet the long list for eligibility and because the primary function of the long list is transparency into the process (which requires a table that is easy to parse), we do not list out full citations with all associated names, publishers, etc. We truncate references to all the works on the long list, listing authors for the written works, author/artist for the graphic stories, and no names at all for the Best Dramatic Presentations and magazines. 

Taking into account feedback from S. Qiouyi Lu and other members of the community, we have come to understand that the work of translators of written works is as fundamental to the work as the authors, and that where one is listed, both should be. We have made corrections to the translated long list works in the 2022 detailed results accordingly. For similar reasons, we are also adding the colorists and cover artists, where they are cited, to the graphic novel listings in the 2022 long list works. 

Thank you to S. Qiouyi Lu and everyone else in the community who has worked with us on this issue.

Hugo Awards Ceremony

We would like to discuss two incidents that occurred during the Hugo Awards Ceremony.

First, we would like to apologize to Marguerite Kenner, Finalist in the Best Fanzine category for The Full Lid, whose name was not read aloud during the ceremony. This was simply a mis-read by our ceremony hosts, who did immediately reach out personally to Ms. Kenner after the ceremony to apologize as well.

Second, there were concerns raised online during the Best Semiprozine category presentation when the audience laughed at the discrepancy between the slide listing the names of the Strange Horizons team and what was said aloud. While we spoke with all Finalists and agreed upon the language to be used on the slides and in the presentation, we acknowledge that we did not properly explain to the audience the context and conversation around not reading out the names of everyone on the Strange Horizons team. We also did not properly support our hosts by putting them in this situation. We will be speaking to future Worldcons to pass on our advice and experience in the hope to avoid similar situations in the future. 

Other items include: an apology for the original name given to the “Future Worldcon Q&A Session” (“The Fannish Inquisition”), correction of errors in Hugo Awards list in the printed Souvenir Book (names misspelled, Astounding Award 2022 winner name listed); omissions of some credits for  the Hugo Awards Ceremony and Opening Ceremony; follow-up with the Airmeet team; Art Show feedback; complaints about badge lanyards; and reasons for having an electronic-only Pocket Program Guide.

(2) FIFTH SEASON RPG CROWDFUNDING. [Item by Eric Franklin.] Green Ronin has launched a Backerkit campaign for the Fifth Season RPG, using their tried-and-tested AGE system (which was also used in the Expanse RPG). “The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game”.

…You and your fellow players take the roles of members of such a community, working to overcome internal difficulties and external threats, in order to be ready when that inevitable Fifth Season comes. Are you a lifelong native of this place, someone everyone has recognized from childhood? Maybe you’re a more recent addition to the comm, someone who’s come from a distance, contributing something to the comm that makes the possibility of your secrets and past catching up to you worth it. Or perhaps you are an orogene, one who was born to sess the movements of the tectonic plates, gifted with a forbidden power to still the shaking earth and bleed heat in your environs away until frost coats everything in a perfect circle around you….

To let you know how it’s all going to work they’ve created “The Fifth Season Roleplaying Quickstart”, a free 45-page download at the link.

If you’re wondering what The Fifth Season RPG is like, you can find out right now. We’ve got a free PDF Quickstart that has an introduction to the Stillness, basic rules to play, pre-generated characters, and a complete adventure. Reading it, or better yet playing it, will give the best introduction to what The Fifth Season RPG is all about…

(3) WHERE ARE THE WATCHMEN? “Doomsday Clock moves to 90 seconds to midnight, signaling more peril than ever” reports NPR.

The world is closer to catastrophe than ever: the Doomsday Clock, the metaphorical measure of challenges to humanity, was reset to 90 seconds before midnight on Tuesday.

The science and security board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said the move — the closest to widespread calamity humanity has ever been judged to be — was “largely, though not exclusively” due to the war in Ukraine.

The scientific body evaluates the clock each January. This is the first full update since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began last February, triggering a war in Europe and a new flood of refugees….

(4) LIVE FROM DEVELOPMENT HELL. Eva Green was cast for A Patriot, a science fiction movie about “a Border Corps captain in an authoritarian futuristic state”, a movie that’s not getting made while she and the producers are suing each other: “‘Evil’, ‘peasants’ and ‘vomit’ – Eva Green’s WhatsApp messages exude star quality” in the Guardian.

A lot of Eva Green’s success is down to her sense of unknowable mystique. This is a woman who steers clear of the celebrity circuit, who isn’t given to blurting her every waking thought on social media. Interviewers perennially struggle to get to her core. Since her breakthrough in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers almost two decades ago, Green has preferred to let her work speak on behalf of her. She is an enigma, an image on a screen upon which we can project our own feelings.

Or at least she was, because loads of Eva Green’s WhatsApp messages have been read out in court, and hoo boy!

Let’s deal with the court case briefly. In 2019, Green signed up for A Patriot, a science fiction movie that would also star Charles Dance and Helen Hunt. The film – about a Border Corps captain in an authoritarian futuristic state – was never made. When the production hit the skids, Green sued producers for her £830,000 fee (almost a quarter of the film’s total budget). And this caused the producers to countersue, claiming that the reason the film was never made was because Eva Green tried to sabotage it. She argues that she did everything that she could to fulfil the terms of her contract and denies “in its entirety” the allegation that she did not want the project to succeed….

(5) ROOM FOR DOUBT. Call Lincoln Michel a skeptic: “Maybe the Book Doesn’t Need to Be ‘Disrupted’ in the First Place?” at Counter Craft.

…In the intervening years, I’ve seen countless versions of enhanced books hyped. Last year, there were articles about how “web 3” and crypto would completely change publishing by [something something string of jargon] block chain! All the magazines publishing daily articles on Web 3 and NFTs have stopped talking about them, seemingly in embarrassment as the crypto space has been exposed as a series of Ponzi schemes. (The crypto crowd is too busy focusing on “disrupting” the legal system to keep themselves out of jail to innovate the novel, I guess.) So naturally everyone who, last year, was declaring crypto would revolutionize every aspect of life have pivoted to saying “A.I.” will revolutionize every aspect of life. And, like the tweet above, that means lots of predictions about how the book will be disrupted. (Commenters to the above tweet also suggested putting books in the “metaverse” so you can “live” books instead of read them, whatever that means…)

I’m on the record as a bit of an “A.I” skeptic. And I’m putting A.I. in scare quotes because a computer program that spits out text it doesn’t understand is not an “intelligence” really. (Renaming “software” as “A.I.” was a very clever marketing coup. People freak out when they hear an “A.I.” did something like win a spelling bee even though no one would be terribly impressed to hear a computer program with a built-in dictionary did that.) …

(6) LIKE A VIRGIN. Leonard Maltin is ecstatic about “My First-Ever Oscar Vote”.

I’ve been watching the Oscars since I was a kid, and writing about them for decades, but this year I did something I never dreamt of during all that time: I cast a vote.

Last year, I was admitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in the At-Large category. (There is no branch representing authors, critics, or preservationists.) As awards season began it dawned on me that I was actually going to participate in this year’s Oscars.

My invitation to vote came about two weeks ago, with a deadline of January 17. As I continued to catch up with foreign-language films, indies, and documentaries I put off voting until Monday, one full day before deadline. The deed didn’t take long, as I was only qualified to cast one vote: for Best Picture.

In the first stage of the awards process, members of the Academy’s branches determine the nominees in each specialized category. Only writers nominate writers, only makeup artists nominate makeup artists, and so on….

(7) FIVE TOP CATS. [Item by Nina Shepardson.] Tor.com has an article about cats in fantasy. Given that File770 has a feature called “Cats Sleep on SFF”, I figured Filers might be interested…. “Admiring Five of Fantasy’s Best Cats” by Cole Rush.

I’ve always thought cats are the perfect companion for the bookish. You never have to put down your book to take a cat for a walk. Instead, our feline friends will curl up on our laps while we dive into our latest fantasy obsessions, as though they’re tiny, fuzzy dragons lounging atop their hoard.

While I have nothing but love and respect for dogs—whether they’re real-life canines or fictional good boys—I feel a special kind of appreciation when a fantasy story contains a cat. Below, I’ll list five of my favorite fantasy felines and briefly discuss whether they’d make good real-world pets….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2004 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Medicine Road by Charles de Lint

Ok, I’ll admit, it is not about food, but it’s a bar which is sort of related to food, isn’t it? Ok I’m stretching things this time. I’ll admit though The Hole does have food and de Lint (with permission of course) borrowed it from Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife.

The quote this time is from Charles de Lint’s Medicine Road which involves the grown up versions of the Dillard Sisters who we last encountered in his children’s book, A Circle of Cats. Here they are folk singers touring the Southwest when they encounter the more mythic aspects of that region. 

Medicine Road was one of a series of shorter novels by de Lint that were  illustrated by Charles Vess which published by Subterranean Press. Seven Wild Sisters, in which we first met Bess and Laurel, who are another of his sister characters.  Both are lovely books as objects and damn fine reads as well. 

Here’s my chosen quote. 

We’d just finished playing our first set at the Hole, in Tucson, Arizona, and were getting ready to take our break. The place was properly called the Hole in the Wall, but when we asked directions to the Barrio Historica at the front desk of our hotel, the guy with the purple hair told us everyone just calls it the Hole. He also told us that it’s a pretty much a dive, but he should see the roadhouses back home in the Kickaha Mountains. This old adobe building, right on the edge of the barrio, is like a palace compared to some of the places we’ve played in Tyson County.

And it’s trés cool, as Frenchy’d say.

You come in off the street into a warren of rooms with saguaro rib ceilings, thick adobe walls, beautifully carved oak doors, and weathered wood plank floors. It smells of mesquite and beer, cigarette smoke and salsa. The band posters on the walls advertise everything from Tex-Mex and Cajun to bluegrass, reggae and plain old rock ‘n’ roll.

But the best part is that once you’ve threaded your way through the maze of little inner rooms you come out into a central courtyard, open to the sky. Clematis vines crawl up the walls. Mismatched tables are scattered across a cracked tile floor. And there, under the spreading branches of a mesquite tree, is the stage where we’ve been playing.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 24, 1911 C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their collaboration resulted in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after Kuttner died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of SugarfootMaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Checking the usual suspects, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven-hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years late, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born January 24, 1937 Julie Gregg. A performer that showed up in a lot of SFF series though never in a primary role. She was in Batman: The Movie as a Nightclub Singer (uncredited) in her first genre role, followed by three appearances on the series itself, two as the Finella character; one-offs on I Dream of GenieBewitchedThe Flying NunMission: ImpossibleKolchak: The Night Stalker and Incredible Hulk followed. Her only lead role was as Maggie Spencer in Mobile One which can’t even be stretched to be considered genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
  • Born January 24, 1941 Gary K. Wolf, 82. He is best known as the author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which was adapted into Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It bears very little resemblance to the film. Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? which was written later hews much closer to the characters and realties of the film. He has written a number of other novels such as Amityville House of Pancakes Vol 3 which I suggest you avoid at all costs. Yes they are that awful. 
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 79. Let’s see… He of course scripted the Hugo nominated “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert J. Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Besides his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive.
  • Born January 24, 1949 John Belushi. No, he was not in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982.)
  • Born January 24, 1984 Remi Ryan, 39. You most likely remember as her as ever-so-cute hacker urchin in RoboCop 3 who saves the day at the end of that film. She actually had her start in acting in Beauty and the Beast at four and was in The Flash a year later. At twelve, she’s in Mann & Machine. A year later is when she’s that urchin. Her last genre undertaking was in The Lost Room a decade ago and she retired from acting not long after.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • From Tom Gauld.

(11) JUST A SECOND. “Guns and Nonsense: Part 2” is today’s installment of Camestros Felapton’s analysis of Larry Correia’s newly released nonfiction book In Defense of the 2nd Amendment.

… It is reasonable to say that Larry Correia uses biting sarcasm, opinions differ on whether his wit is incisive and I’ve always found that what logic he uses is supremely vincible. Maybe that’s me. However, [Nick] Searcy [author of the Foreword] does focus on the central quality of Correia’s approach to examining topics of the day: mockery. Michael Moore is a large man and hence somebody who can be mocked and once mocked his opinions can be dismissed. In reality, Moore is far from infallible and his documentaries are far from flawless but engaging with them takes effort and it is so much easier to make a quick dig about over-eating and be done.

Mockery is a recurring rhetorical device in Correia’s style of argumentation and it is what his readership enjoys. He does attempt some arguments of substance but the overall thrust of his approach is not to show that an opinion is incorrect but that it is an opinion that can be mocked or dismissed. To this extent, Searcy is accurately getting to the guts of this book. The point is not to show gun control adherents as wrong but as foolish and contemptible….

(12) I SING THE LYRIC ELECTRIC. Rich Lynch took ChatGPT for a “test drive” and sent File 770 a screencap of the results.

(13) DOWNLOAD THE BIG BUCKS. Meanwhile, Microsoft has moved from the test drive stage to the heavy investor stage. “Microsoft to Invest $10 Billion in OpenAI, the Creator of ChatGPT” reports the New York Times.

Microsoft said on Monday that it was making a “multiyear, multibillion-dollar” investment in OpenAI, the San Francisco artificial intelligence lab behind the experimental online chatbot ChatGPT.

The companies did not disclose the specific financial terms of the deal, but a person familiar with the matter said Microsoft would invest $10 billion in OpenAI.

Microsoft had already invested more than $3 billion in OpenAI, and the new deal is a clear indication of the importance of OpenAI’s technology to the future of Microsoft and its competition with other big tech companies like Google, Meta and Apple.

With Microsoft’s deep pockets and OpenAI’s cutting-edge artificial intelligence, the companies hope to remain at the forefront of generative artificial intelligence — technologies that can generate text, images and other media in response to short prompts. After its surprise release at the end of November, ChatGPT — a chatbot that answers questions in clear, well-punctuated prose — became the symbol of a new and more powerful wave of A.I….

(14) DRONES SHOT DOWN? “Amazon drone unit hit with layoffs as long-awaited program launches”CNBC has the story.

In 2013, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” to reveal a futuristic plan his company had been secretly pursuing to deliver packages by drone in 30 minutes. 

A pre-recorded demo showed an Amazon-branded “octocopter” carrying a small package off a conveyor belt and into the skies to a customer’s home, landing smoothly in the backyard, dropping off the item and then whizzing away. Bezos predicted a fleet of Amazon drones could take to the skies within five years and said, “it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

A decade later, Amazon is finally starting to launch drone deliveries in two small markets through a program called Prime Air. But just as it’s finally getting off the ground, the drone program is running squarely into a sputtering economy and CEO Andy Jassy’s widespread cost-cutting efforts.

CNBC has learned that, as part of Amazon’s plan to slash 18,000 jobs, its biggest headcount reduction in history, Prime Air is losing a significant number of employees…. 

(15) GOOD DEED FOR THE DAY. Ready to move on from fandom? This sounds like a great substitute. “A ‘Big Night’ for Newts, and for a California Newt Brigade” in the New York Times.

…What the newts need now is a safe way to get to their rendezvous points. In many places, busy roads lie between newts and their breeding grounds. In Petaluma and other parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, thousands of newts are killed by cars each year as they try to cross these roads. The carnage in Petaluma is so severe that a group of local residents has taken it upon themselves to stop it.

For the past four years, volunteers have spent their winter nights shepherding newts across a one-mile stretch of Chileno Valley Road, a winding country road in the hills of Petaluma. They call themselves the Chileno Valley Newt Brigade, and their founder, Sally Gale, says they will keep showing up until the newts no longer need them.

On a warm, wet evening in early December, Ms. Gale and her fellow brigaders gathered to do what they do best: save newts. Wearing reflective vests and armed with flashlights and buckets, Ms. Gale and her brigaders split up into groups and began scouring Chileno Valley Road. The conditions were perfect for newts. It had just rained and the temperature was a brisk 55 degrees.

“That’s their sweet spot,” Ms. Gale said.

…On busy nights, as many as 24 volunteers gather on the road to spend their evening shepherding newts to safety.

“It’s such a huge cross-section of people, and we haven’t met a bad one yet,” said Katie Brammer, a graphic designer and newt brigade captain. Among her fellow volunteers are schoolteachers, students, naturalists, business owners and retirees.

Ms. Brammer and her husband, Rick Stubblefield, have been newt brigade captains for just over a year. They say it’s the charisma of the newts that got them hooked on helping.

“California newts are quite endearing,” Ms. Brammer said. “They hold onto your hand as you’re carrying them across the road.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This has been out for awhile, however, it may not have been linked here before. “Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania”. To be released February 17.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Nina Shepardson, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Amdrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 1/19/23 I Have Always Depended On The Chimeras Of Strangers

(1) DECREASE YOUR PILE. Matt at Runalong the Shelves has unleashed “The 2023 Booktempter’s TBR reduction challenge” with 12 sets of different monthly themes to trim that backlog of things you’ve picked to read.

After a lot of people enjoyed last year’s challenge then I am going to give you some more little monthly prompts. Some familiar and some new to help get that TBR pile reduced! I care you see!

It has three simple rules

1 – It applies to your TBR pile as per 23.59 31/12/2022 no new books post this date can be used (but of course you can subsequently add more to your TBR piles I am not cruel)

2 – If you are a book blogger no ARCs! Sorry, but this is to cut down your own self-induced TBR.

3 – You can do one challenge a month (or more if you fancy my stretch goals) but you only have to do twelve in a year and while I am applying some very loose monthly themes. You could do this in a sprint or just when you feel like it ?

For example, the “January TBR Reduction Challenge”:

January’s Challenge is fairly standard – you have my permission to read the last book you bought!

This is how TBRs form – we buy book; then place on shelf; read another book instead. This month – is no longer about delayed gratification. No book diet for us in January. Pick that tale up and allow yourself the pleasure of reading it. Who knows this could become a habit to start the rest of the year!

(2) OF ALL THE BRASS. “England’s Booker Prize Asks Public To Name Its Trophy” — and Publishing Perspectives boosts the signal. There’s a jury assigned to winnow the suggestions, so don’t expect to see “Prizey McPrizeface” on the shortlist.

… The public is being asked now to put forward ideas for the statuette’s name. And even in naming a trophy, yes, there will then be a shortlist of six names. Chosen by a jury. This must be how even the daily lunch menu is decided in the offices of our myriad publishing and book awards….

(3) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 75 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Optimus Prime But for Books”

John Coxon wants to play, Alison Scott has met lots of authors, and Liz Batty is a womble. We discuss Locus and Amazon’s decisions about Kindle Publishing for Periodicals before diving into the bewildering state of the Chengdu Worldcon. Listen here!

(4) NYRSF READINGS. The New York Review of Science Fiction readings series resumes online with guest author Jonathan Carroll. Long into host Jim Freund’s YouTube page on Sunday, January 22 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Jonathan Carroll is an American fiction writer primarily known for novels that may be labeled magic realism, slipstream or contemporary fantasy. He has lived in Austria since 1974, hence this month’s Sunday matinee in NYC, which will be 7 PM in Vienna.

Carroll’s short story, “Friend’s Best Man”, won the World Fantasy Award. His novel, Outside the Dog Museum, won the British Fantasy Award and his collection of short stories won the Bram Stoker Award. The short story “Uh-Oh City” won the French Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. His short story “Home on the Rain” was chosen as one of the best stories of the year by the Pushcart Prize committee. Carroll has been a runner-up for the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo, and British Fantasy Awards.

(5) TO THE BONE. “ComiXology Gutted by Amazon Layoffs, Former Staff Worry For the Service’s Future” reports CBR.com.

Social media conversation around ComiXology erupted on Jan. 18 after major redundancies were reported at the Amazon-owned company.

According to Amazon journalist Jason Del Ray, Amazon retail CEO Doug Herrington issued a note notifying employees of the layoffs in the morning, emphasizing that it was “an important part of a wider effort to lower our cost to serve so we can continue investing in the wide selection, low prices, and fast shipping that our customers love.” While ComiXology was not specifically mentioned in the report, employees of the digital comics company clarified on Twitter that they had been affected. ComiXology founders David Steinberger and John D. Roberts chimed in, noting that they were saddened over the loss of jobs.

… Scott McGovern, who previously worked as a program manager at ComiXology for a decade, posted a Twitter thread in the aftermath of the layoffs. McGovern estimated that “at least 50% of the staff have been let go,” and added that the number might be as high as 75%. McGovern also wrote that he was “not optimistic” about the future of digital comics at Amazon despite the best efforts of ComiXology staff…

(6) UTTER CHAOS. “Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Will Introduce a New Computer Voice” warns Gizmodo.

Since Majel Barrett sadly passed in 2008Star Trek has turned to a plethora of alternatives to create new voices to match her iconic role as generations of computers across the Trek franchise. But now as Picard pulls us more and more into the 25th century timeline, it’s leaving Barrett’s legacy behind.

Speaking on Twitter recently, showrunner Terry Matalas confirmed that Picard’s final season—which will bring us the further into an early 25th-century timeline that, aside from Discovery slingshotting far into the future, none of the other contemporary Trek shows have explored yet—will introduce not one, but two new computer voices. One will be the voice of civilian systems, and another will become the de facto Starfleet computer voice across the Federation….

(7) A RARE KIND WORD ABOUT AI. “’Jung_E’ on Netflix: A Beautifully Heartrending Sci-Fi Thriller” is CNET reviewer Jennifer Bisset’s verdict.

A dash of class warfare and a heartrending parent-child connection brought a unique spin to 2016 zombie horror Train to Busan. Now South Korean director Yeon Sang-ho is turning his hand to a sci-fi thriller, setting Jung_E in a dystopian Earth marshaled by AI robots. In a similar vein to his zombie offering, Yeon is mainly focused on the human heart amid the action. This mother-daughter tale is driven by sacrifice, unanswered questions and the tragic price of survival.

That core preoccupation leads to an almost poetic — and moving — take on the creation of AI robots….

(8) LEE EMMETT (1942-2023). Lee Emmett, wife of author John Varley, died of cancer on January 13. It had spread to many parts of her body before it was discovered fairly recently – “The oncologist said she may have had cancer with no symptoms for as long as a year,” wrote Varley in an email to subscribers.

…On Thursday Mary-Beth and Lee’s son, Tom, got me into the hospital and to her room in a wheelchair. Her grand-kids had been in earlier. We talked for a while. She said she loved me, and I said I loved her back. And less than 24 hours later, she was gone…

He also said:

…I have no idea what I’m going to do now. There are a million things that need doing, and I don’t have the enthusiasm for any of them. I guess time will soften the blow, but there are no signs of it yet.

I’m not going to ask for money. I still remember how many of you came through for me after my heart surgery, and thank you, one and all. But I will point out that there is a yellow button on the home page at www.varley.net that says DONATE. It’s there because Spider Robinson said he had such a button on his page, and from time to time it had come in handy at a bad time. So it has been with me. I am retired now, and my collected works bring in little enough at this stage in my career. We have been getting by on social security and small donations here and there. Now Lee’s SS will be gone. I know I’ll make it, one way or another. Know that I am grateful to all you faithful readers, and always will be. My life has been good, and I still have a little ways to go.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1984 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume

New Orleans is featured in any number of genre novels and I’m sure that I’ll be featuring yet more quotes here from those novels here. One of my favorite culinary  quotes about this city comes from Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume, a novel first published by Bantam thirty nine years ago.

Though it takes place in multiple eras and locations, two of its memorable passages are set in New Orleans including the reason that gives the novel its title.

A stage production of Jitterbug Perfume was produced in Seattle at Cafe Nordo fourteen years ago.

Now here’s the quote I like…

The minute you land in New Orleans, something wet and dark leaps on you and starts humping you like a swamp dog in heat, and the only way to get that aspect of New Orleans off you is to eat it off. That means beignets and crayfish bisque and jambalaya, it means shrimp remoulade, pecan pie, and red beans with rice, it means elegant pompano au papillote, funky file z’herbes, and raw oysters by the dozen, it means grillades for breakfast, a po’ boy with chowchow at bedtime, and tubs of gumbo in between. It is not unusual for a visitor to the city to gain fifteen pounds in a week–yet the alternative is a whole lot worse. If you don’t eat day and night, if you don’t constantly funnel the indigenous flavors into your bloodstream, then the mystery beast will go right on humping you, and you will feel its sordid presence rubbing against you long after you have left town. In fact, like any sex offender, it can leave permanent psychological scars.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 19, 1809 Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve got several sources that cite him as an early root of SF. Anyone care to figure that out? Be that as it may, he certainly wrote some damn scary horror — ones that I still remember are “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” (Died 1849.)
  • Born January 19, 1930 Tippi Hedren, 93. Melanie Daniels in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds which scared the shit out of me when I saw it a long time ago. She had a minor role as Helen in The Birds II: Land’s End, a televised sequel done thirty years on. No idea how bad or good it was. Other genre appearances were in such films and shows as Satan’s HarvestTales from the DarksideThe Bionic Woman, the new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Batman: The Animated Series
  • Born January 19, 1932 Richard Lester, 91. Director best known for his 1980s Superman films. He’s got a number of other genre films including the exceedingly silly The Mouse on the Moon, the stellar Robin and Marian which may be my favorite Robin Hood film ever, and an entire excellent series of Musketeers films. He also directed Royal Flash based on George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novel of that name which Kage was very fond of. 
  • Born January 19, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “The War Machines” and including one-offs for The SaintThe Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 19, 1958 Allen Steele, 65. Best, I think, at the shorter length works as reflected in his three Hugo wins: the first at LA Con III for his “The Death of Captain Future”, the second for his “…Where Angels Fear to Tread” at BucConeer and his third for “The Emperor of Mars” at Renovation. Not to say that you should overlook his novels and future history series beginning with The Jericho Iteration, which is well-worth your time. 
  • Born January 19, 1961 Paul McCrane, 62. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely a homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files
  • Born January 19, 1981 Bitsie Tulloch, 42. She’s best known for her role as Juliette Silverton on Grimm. (I saw the first three seasons I think. It’s rather good.) She played Lois Lane in the Elseworlds event which she reprised during the Crisis on Infinite Earths event a year later on Flash and the other series.
  • Born January 19 Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. Nebula winner for “O2 Arena” (2022) and Otherwise Award winner for “Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon”  (2021), Ekpeki is an African speculative fiction writer and editor in Nigeria. He has also been a finalist for multiple Hugos, and a nominee for many other awards. He edited and published the Bridging Worlds anthology, the first ever Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology (2022 World Fantasy Award winner), and co-edited the Africa Risen and Dominion (2021 British Fantasy Award) anthologies. He founded Jembefola Press and the Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction. (OGH)

(11) ON THE SINISTER SIDE. Publishers Lunch reports the acquisition of an interesting-sounding mystery pastiche.

NYT bestselling author Claudia Gray’s THE PERILS OF LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH, the first of two new mysteries set in the world of Jane Austen’s England featuring the son of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and the daughter of Catherine and Henry Tilney, who have grown up to be amateur sleuths in the vein of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, and who are summoned by the imperious Lady Catherine to investigate sinister attempts on her life.

(12) SCRAMBLED IN STONE. Gizmodo knows where to look for a Mesozoic breakfast: “Nearly 100 Titanosaur Nests, Complete With Fossilized Eggs, Found in India”.

…Besides conjuring the idea of a double-yolked titanosaur omelet (was I the only one thinking about that?), the pathological eggs indicate titanosaurs may have produced eggs sequentially, like modern birds….

(13) ALL THAT REMAINS. “Star graveyard revealed in super-clear image of the Milky Way” in Nature.

Astronomers have discovered the remains of nearly two dozen exploding stars in the Milky Way, thanks to detailed radio observations that could unveil many more such events in the Galaxy.

A star in the Milky Way is expected to explode as a supernova roughly at least once every 100 years. These violent explosions — the dramatic final throes of massive stars as they exhaust their fuel — can eject vast clouds of dust and gas to locations many light years from the star. Such ‘supernova remnants’ can persist for thousands of years before dissipating. Studying these remnants can reveal useful information about the Galaxy, because they often contain heavy elements that give rise to other stars, planets and even life itself.

Hundreds of such remnants have been found across the Milky Way, but astronomers think that they have observed only about one-fifth of the total number….

(14) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. Scream 6 will be released in theaters on March 10.

Following the latest Ghostface killings, the four survivors leave Woodsboro behind and start a fresh chapter. In Scream VI, Melissa Barrera (“Sam Carpenter”), Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Mindy Meeks-Martin”), Mason Gooding (“Chad Meeks-Martin”), Jenna Ortega (“Tara Carpenter”), Hayden Panettiere (“Kirby Reed”) and Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) return to their roles in the franchise

(15) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Here’s a trailer for The Wandering Earth 2, announced as “coming soon” to the U.S. and Canada.

​​In the near future, after learning that the sun is rapidly burning out and will obliterate Earth in the process, humans build enormous engines to propel the planet to a new solar system, far out of reach of the sun’s fiery flares. However, the journey out into the universe is perilous, and humankind’s last shot at survival will depend on a group of young people brave enough to step up and execute a dangerous, life-or-death operation to save the earth.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, BravoLimaPoppa, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/23 Magneto’s Cat Versus The Metal-Munching Moon Mice

(1) AI CONTENT CREATION. Brian Keene makes the argument that “The Machines Already Took Our Jobs”.

…Now, you might not think that’s a big deal, because who is reading those types of clickbait articles anyway? But there used to be a human writer churning out those things. And now that writer is just a little bit more financially insecure and scrambling to find another gig to replace it. 

But stick around, because it gets worse. It is one miniscule step from A.I. writing that sort of content to then writing an article for a magazine or a newspaper. And indeed, I know of magazines and newspapers whose owners are already looking into this possibility. As one person at a fairly decent-sized outlet told me, “From a cost-cutting perspective, it costs as much to pay an editor to look over a machine’s writing as it does to have them look over a human’s writing. But the difference is we don’t have to pay the human who wrote it. Just the editor. It’s a game-changer.”

That’s not the only place you’re reading A.I. generated content. I personally know of three companies that now use A.I. to write their posts for LinkedIn and Facebook. And because that sort of content is usually dry as a Saltine cracker anyway, it’s impossible to tell that a machine wrote it rather than a human….

(2) FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE. Meanwhile, Camestros Felapton finds services are being developed to detect AI-generated text, and uses his own writing to evaluate the results delivered by one of them in “The robot arms race”.

… With the text-generating services, the need to detect the role of these services in academic contexts has become an immediate issue. How does a teacher know that an essay is written by a student or by some GPT-fuelled website?

New online services intended to detect machine-learning generated text are appearing. I tried this one https://gptzero.me/

(3) THE GUNN SF CENTER’S BOOK CLUB. For the month of January, the Center has chosen Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award. Join them on Friday, January 27 at Noon (Central Time). Register for the virtual meeting here

Set in an underwater society built in the horror of the slave trade, the mermaids of this story must rely on their collective memories of the past in order to reimagine their futures. This novel, inspired by a rap song of the same name, is sure to captivate folks interested in the forthcoming live-action The Little Mermaid and other fantastical tales.

(4) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. NPR interviews James Cameron about the movies that are on the way: “Avatar 2 is taking over cinema, but how far away are we from upcoming sequels?”

On upcoming Avatar sequels and what exactly makes a good sequel

The shooting scripts are all written. We’ve already fully captured and fully photographed movie three. So, it’s essentially in post-production.

We’ve done the first act of Movie four, and all we have to do is, you know, kind of add water, so to speak.

The audience want some degree of familiarity. They want to be grounded in that which they liked from the first film. And some sequels change too much. The trick is to find ways to make it pleasantly surprising, unexpected. You know, I feel like I was able to do that with a completely unexpected direction.

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1960 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] An excerpt from Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham

As you know by now, you know that I have an inordinate fondness for all thing things Seuss. Indeed in my bedroom on the nightstand sits Horton, Cat in the Hat and The Fish in His Teapot. 

I have also watched the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas so many times that I’m sure I’ve memorized the entire delightful affair. 

I thoroughly despised the twenty minutes I saw of the Jim Carey fronted How the Grinch Stole Christmas crap. But I am told that I should check out the newer Grinch animated film in which Benedict Cumberbatch voiced The Grinch. Any opinions here concerning it? 

Did you know that on the twentieth of September 1991 following Geisel’s death earlier that week, Jesse Jackson read an excerpt of Green Eggs and Ham on Saturday Night Live? Well he did. And here it is

Now let’s have the pleasure of an excerpt from it. 

Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
I do not like green eggs and ham.

Would you like them here or there?
I would not like them here or there.
I would not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Would you like them in a house?
Would you like them with a mouse?
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 16, 1887 John Hamilton. He’s no doubt remembered best for his role as Perry White in the Fifties Adventures of Superman series. He also was in the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial as Professor Gordon, and I see he played G.F. Hillman in the Forties Captain America serial film. (Died 1958.)
  • Born January 16, 1903 Harold A. Davis. Notable as another writer of the Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. He was the first ghostwriter to fill in for Lester Dent on Doc Savage.  Davis would create the character of Ham’s pet ape Chemistry in Dust of Death. (Died 1955.)
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok, he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of KilsonaThe Green Man of Graypec, and The Terror from Timorkal), plus the wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.)
  • Born January 16, 1943 Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen “. He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.)
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 75. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His gems include the Halloween franchise, The ThingStarman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to have done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is.
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 53 . Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. 
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 49. Yes she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here.
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann, 47. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) THE HELICON SOCIETY. The 2023 “Helicon Awards” were announced January 14. It’s time again for Richard Paolinelli to give awards to people he publishes through his Tuscany Bay Books imprint, such as his fellow Scrappy-Doo Declan Finn, which now has a distribution deal with Baen, plus a couple of real bestselling sff writers he hopes will pay him attention.

Paolinelli and Finn still relentlessly advertise their Dragon Awards Finalist status, from the first years when the Puppies cornered the market, but they have solved the subsequent problem with the Dragon Awards being voted to other people by starting an award where – the public doesn’t have a vote!

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Linoleum comes to theaters February 24.

Cameron Edwin (Jim Gaffigan), the host of a failing children’s science TV show called “Above & Beyond”, has always had aspirations of being an astronaut. After a mysterious space-race era satellite coincidentally falls from space and lands in his backyard, his midlife crisis manifests in a plan to rebuild the machine into his dream rocket. As his relationship with his wife (Rhea Seehorn) and daughter (Katelyn Nacon) start to strain, surreal events begin unfolding around him — a doppelgänger moving into the house next door, a car falling from the sky, and an unusual teenage boy forging a friendship with him. He slowly starts to piece these events together to ultimately reveal that there’s more to his life story than he once thought.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/12/23 Sorry, Wrong Prime Number

(1) HELP LAIRD BARRON. A GoFundMe was started yesterday for “Laird Barron: hospital costs, medication costs”. It has raised $107,285 of the $200,000 goal in 24 hours.

Mike Davis here: Laird is a private person and I’m trying to convey just how serious this is without revealing too much personal information. Make no mistake: This is very serious, and potentially life threatening. That said: He needs a bronchoscopy. He has a mass on his lung. His blood sugar numbers are dangerously high. He will need medications as well. These are just a few of the things that will need to be paid for.

We are raising funds for Laird for three reasons:

  • Medical bills (and they will be very high, make no mistake).
  • Health Insurance (his friends are looking into getting him health insurance, if possible)
  • Lost income (Laird has been on a sickbed since September or so. That’s a long time to be unable to work.)

Laird has been very supportive of so many in the horror community. It’s our turn to give back.

(2) NO COMPOUND INTEREST. In Radio Times, “Russell T Davies debunks Doctor Who £10 million budget rumours”.

…Following reports that the BBC sci-fi will now receive a monumental budget of £10 million per episode, Davies has debunked the rumours.

Asked about the circulating reports, the showrunner explained to Doctor Who Magazine: “That has been exaggerated. If that was the budget, I’d be speaking to you from my base on the Moon.”…

… Executive producer Jane Tranter added: “It’s a really good budget for us. But we are not Game of Thrones. Or The Rings of Power.”

(3) SENDING THE TARDIS OVER THE RAINBOW. When it comes to Doctor Who, “Colourising classic episodes isn’t sacrilege” opines Radio Times’ Steve O’Brien.

…Those black-and-white Doctor Who stories that we have now are already far from the versions that were first put out on VHS in the 1990s. Now, software can restore the original video look to these smudgy old tele-recordings.

With our televisions getting bigger and the resolution becoming sharper, these vintage episodes from the ’60s are beginning to look ever more anachronistic, like listening to a scratchy Noel Coward 78 next to Kendrick Lamar’s latest. It’s difficult to find any black-and-white movie or TV show on Netflix and even BritBox seems wary. While it welcomes plenty of antique TV, it has precious few non-colour series in its vast archive.

Not that colourising old black-and-white Doctor Who is entirely new. Some Jon Pertwee episodes, first broadcast in colour, for years existed only as black and white tele-recordings (the original colour tapes having been junked). Until 2013, the only copy of The Mind Of Evil that survived was in black-and-white, until it was discovered that it was possible to recover the original colour by decoding chroma dot signals within the picture. Only when it was being readied for DVD release was it discovered that episode one didn’t have any chroma dot information, which meant it had to be colourised from scratch….

(4) SAVING THE MOVIES. The New York Times wondered “Why Do Some Films Get Restored and Others Languish? A MoMA Series Holds Clues.”

A frothy musical comedy from Weimar Germany, starring an actress whose unexpected death at 31 may have been a Gestapo murder. The first known Irish feature to be directed by a woman. An American drama from 1939 distributed to largely Black audiences, starring Louise Beavers as the progressive warden of a reform school.

All these films might have disappeared forever, at least in their complete forms. But all are showing beginning Thursday in To Save and Project, the Museum of Modern Art’s annual series highlighting recent preservation work. Some titles, like the opening-night selection, “The Cat and the Canary,” a popular silent from 1927, were preserved by MoMA itself. Others have been flown in from archives around the globe. ‌

Decisions about which films become candidates for preservation — or even what preservation means for any given movie — are rarely clear-cut. They depend on a combination of commercial interests, historical judgments, economic considerations and the availability and condition of film materials….

(5) WHO’LL SAVE FAT JACK’S? “Fat Jack’s, Philadelphia’s first and oldest comic book shop, raising money to fight closure” – the Philadelphia Inquirer has the latest, including news of a GoFundMe appeal.

…Years of losing business to online sellers and the rise of digital comics pushed many comic stores to close down. Fat Jack’s remained operating, as community members raised money to help them out of a 2019 economic downturn. But, right as stability seem to be in sight, the pandemic sent them into a six-month shutdown. Being an in-person store, Fat Jack’s saw sales plummet.

“We’re in a terrible situation and we desperately need your help,” wrote Fat Jack’s manager, Eric Partridge, on the store’s official GoFundMe. According to Partridge, who has been managing the store for 28 years, most Center City clientele had settled into remote work and were no longer making their way into Philly — a reality that, per a 2022 Center City District report, the city continues to struggle with. Only 57% of foot traffic is back, compared to 2019 levels.

“We used to have about 222 to 250 people a week, but now we are down to about 180,” said store owner Mike Ferraro. Fat Jack’s subscription program has also been affected. Working from home meant that readers had to cancel their membership due to being unable to pick up their comics….

(6) FANHISTORY ZOOM AVAILABLE. Fanac.org has added a two-part Zoom panel about Pittsburgh fandom to its YouTube channel.

Pittsburgh in the late 60s/70s saw an explosion of fannish activity, with the founding of the Western Pennsylvania SF Association (WPSFA), the creation of PghLANGE and the publication of many fanzines, including Granfalloon (Linda Bushyager and Suzanne Tompkins). What made Pittsburgh special?…This group of panelists can certainly tell us – they’re the Founding Mothers of WPSFA and PghLANGE.  This conversation among friends truly conveys what it was like to be young, female, and the center of fannish creativity in 1970s Pittsburgh. It’s history through facts and anecdotes, from how the organizers of the 1960 Worldcon felt about these new kids, to the Breezewood Curse and where the name PgHLANGE came from. You’ll learn where and why Harlan Ellison whispered “Save me” to Ginjer, the contents of the first PgHLANGE art show, who Mary Esther is, and how Bob Silverberg came to welcome the Founding Mothers to Pittsburgh. It’s great fun, and the convention stories of far too many people sharing far too little sleeping space may remind you of your early convention experiences.

 In part 2 of this session, we continue the conversation by the Founding Mothers of WPSFA and PghLANGE (with a few friends!), and continue the focus on fans, professionals and conventions of the 70s…

There are some great stories about Harlan Ellison, and Robert Silverberg. Octavia Butler’s interaction with the group comes up too. Linda talks about why she started writing, and her connection to the NYcon, and Ginjer comments on her transition from social worker to award winning editor. The impact of Star Trek on WPSFA is dissected as well. Fans, both living and dead, are remembered, with stories and anecdotes, including the full story of the Pittsburgh subway system. My favorite is the story of “the Sensuous SF writer”….There are touching stories, funny stories, and at least one story that achieved mythic status in fandom. If you were a Pittsburgh fan in the 70s, you may find yourself mentioned!

Note: Participants had a few technical difficulties and there are some rough spots in the recording. 

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1996 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones

I gather that it’s hard to properly describe food to someone who won’t be able to actually taste it. This apparently isn’t a problem for George R.R. Martin who inserts detailed descriptions of food everywhere in A Song of Ice and Fire

I have not seen the HBO series so I’ve no idea how this was scripted into an actual scene if indeed it was. I like the novels and my long standing policy as you know by now is not to watch an adaption of any such work that I’ve enjoyed immensely. Full cast audio adaptations are different as, for many reasons, they work for me whereas video adaptations don’t. 

Below is one of my favorite such passages. 

All the while the courses came and went. A thick soup of barley and venison. Salads of sweetgrass and spinach and plums, sprinkled with crushed nuts. Snails in honey and garlic. Sansa had never eaten snails before; Joffrey showed her how to get the snail out of the shell, and fed her the first sweet morsel himself. Then came trout fresh from the river, baked in clay; her prince helped her crack open the hard casing to expose the flaky white flesh within. And when the meat course was brought out, he served her himself, slicing a queen’s portion from the joint, smiling as he laid it on her plate. She could see from the way he moved that his right arm was still troubling him, yet he uttered not a word of complaint.

Later came sweetbreads and pigeon pie and baked apples fragrant with cinnamon and lemon cakes frosted in sugar, but by then Sansa was so stuffed that she could not manage more than two little lemon cakes, as much as she loved them. She was wondering whether she might attempt a third when the king began to shout.

King Robert had grown louder with each course. From time to time Sansa could hear him laughing or roaring a command over the music and the clangor of plates and cutlery, but they were too far away for her to make out his words.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 12, 1930 Bruce Lansbury. Brother of Angela Lansbury. He is best remembered as producer of eighty-eight episodes of Murder, She Wrote starring his sister. He also was a writer for fifteen episodes of the show. He produced the bulk of the episodes of The Wild Wild West, and many episodes of Mission: Impossible. (That was how I found him as I’m watching the entire series.) He was producer of Buck Rogers in the 25th CenturyKnight Rider and Wonder Woman, and executive produced The Fantastic Journey. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 12, 1951 Kirstie Alley. She’s here for being Saavik on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, her very first film. It was, errr, interesting reading the various rumors why this was her only Trek film. Her SFF experience otherwise was brief limited to being the villain’s ex-girlfriend in Runaway, an uncredited handmaiden on Quark, and being in the Village of the Damned as Dr. Susan Verner. (Died 2022.)
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 71. I have read his Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue LightFutureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent FutureThe Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB.
  • Born January 12, 1955 Rockne O’Bannon, 68. Creator of five genre series in Alien Nation, CultDefianceFarscape and seaQuest. He also helped write the Warehouse 13 pilot. He has also written and produced for Constantine, Revolution and V, among many other projects. I truly loved Farscape and seaQuest but thought Defiance went bad fast.
  • Born January 12, 1957 John Lasseter, 66. Animator fired from Disney for promoting computer animation who joined Lucasfilm which eventually became Pixar under Steve Jobs. And where he directed Toy StoryA Bug’s LifeToy Story, Cars and Cars 2. He also Executive Produced Toy Story 3 as well as ZootopiaFinding Dory and Incredibles 2.
  • Born January 12, 1960 Oliver Platt, 63. My favorite role by him is Porthos in The Three Musketeers but his first genre role was as Randy Steckle in Flatlineers and he later played Rupert Burns in the Bicentennial Man film on Asimov’s The Positronic Man. He voices Hades in Wonder Woman, not surprising given his deep voice.
  • Born January 12, 1970 Kaja Foglio, 53. Writer, artist, and publisher. Foglio co-won the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story at Anticipation (2009) for the absolutely stunning Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, created with her husband artist Phil Foglio and colorist Cheyenne Wright, and co-won two more Hugos in the following years.  Having won three three years running, they removed themselves from further competition.  If you haven’t read them, you’re in for treat as they’re quite amazing. Her husband Phil Foglio and colorist Cheyenne Wright do stunning work.
  • Born January 12, 1980 Kameron Hurley, 43. Winner of a Best Related Work Hugo at London 3 for We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative. Fiction wise, her most excellent God’s War won a BFA and a Kitschie, whereas her The Geek Feminist Revolution won her a BFA for non-fiction. Very impressive indeed. Oh, and she won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer at Loncon 3 as well. Nice. 

(9) JOB THREAT? The Hollywood Reporter takes the media writing community’s temperature about new AI writing platforms: “ChatGPT: Will Hollywood Writers Consider Rules for AI?”

…“Do I see this in the near term replacing the kind of writing that we’re doing in writers rooms every day? No, I don’t,” says Big Fish and Aladdin writer John August, who has tested the free research preview and talked about it on the popular Scriptnotes podcast, which he co-hosts with Craig Mazin (The Last of Us). Still, he adds, “There certainly is no putting the genie back in the bottle. It’s going to be here, and we need to be thinking about how to use it in ways that advance art and don’t limit us.”

Another prominent writer and showrunner, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter anonymously, has taken ChatGPT for several test rides and says the chatbot seems incapable of writing funny jokes or producing results that might be useful to include in a script without “substantial creative input from me.” This showrunner adds, “When people conclude that this is going to replace professional writers, I think they’re sort of swallowing an Elon Musk-style fantasy about the future that is not actually connected to the technology.”…

(10) DIG THOSE DIGITS. Speaking of Elon Musk, what’s he doing using my number? “Tesla set to spend $770 million expanding Texas Gigafactory” reports The Verge.

Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla has notified the state of Texas of its plans to spend upward of $770 million expanding its already immense Austin-based factory….

(11) HOME SWEET HOME. Steve Vertlieb posted an intimate view of his “living” room (Steve’s quotemarks) on Facebook. Looks very fannish, although the stacks may be too straight. (Click for larger images.)

(12) GOING UP. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature reports “2022 was a record year for space launches”, as 180 rockets lifted off successfully, with SpaceX driving the pace.

 2022 was a record year for space with 180 successful rocket launches to orbit — the most ever, and 44 more than in 2021. The launches were dominated by rockets from US company SpaceX and from the Chinese government and businesses…

(13) JUSTWATCH. Here are JustWatch’s Top 10 lists for December.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Diana Glyer, Steve Vertlieb, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, BravoLimaPoppa, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/10/23 Scrolls Are Here, Scrolls Are Here, Life Is Pixels And Life Is Bheer

(1) SPEAK MEMORY. The Guardian wonders, “Death of the narrator? Apple unveils suite of AI-voiced audiobooks”.

Apple has quietly launched a catalogue of books narrated by artificial intelligence in a move that may mark the beginning of the end for human narrators. The strategy marks an attempt to upend the lucrative and fast-growing audiobook market – but it also promises to intensify scrutiny over allegations of Apple’s anti-competitive behaviour.

The popularity of the audiobook market has exploded in recent years, with technology companies scrambling to gain a foothold. Sales last year jumped 25%, bringing in more than $1.5bn. Industry insiders believe the global market could be worth more than $35bn by 2030.

… Before the launch, one Canadian literary agent told the Guardian she did not see the value from both a literary or customer perspective.

“Companies see the audiobooks market and that there’s money to be made. They want to make content. But that’s all it is. It’s not what customers want to listen to. There’s so much value in the narration and the storytelling,” said Carly Watters….

(2) KELLY LINK Q&A. At Publishers Weekly: “Flights of Fancy: PW Talks with Kelly Link”.

What can contemporary fiction inject into the fairy tale?

Maybe psychological depth. Fairy tales depend on what the reader brings to them. The difference between fairy tales and myth is that Disney hardened our idea of certain stories so that a particular version of them becomes so codified that it replaces other possibilities of how that story could exist. I don’t think it’s great to let those stories exist in one form. People are constantly retelling them, and I think you need the rigid, popular version everyone knows for the weirder versions to have any power….

(3) DEADLINE EXTENDED. L.A. County high school students now have until January 23, 2023 to submit their sff short stories to The Tomorrow Prize & The Green Feather Award.

The Omega Sci-Fi Awards invites Los Angeles County high school students to submit their short science fiction stories to The Tomorrow Prize. The Tomorrow Prize encourages young writers to use sci-fi to explore the diverse issues humanity wrestles with, spark creative solutions, and unite the worlds of art and science.

The Green Feather Award co-presented by the Nature Nexus Institute, highlights an environmentally focused sci-fi story. We are seeking stories that integrate creative solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises.

For more details please see submission guidelines.

Selected finalists will be chosen to have their stories read in their honor by celebrity guests during the May 2023 Culminating Event.

First, Second, and Third place Tomorrow Prize winners will receive $250, $150, and $100 USD cash prizes.

The First place Tomorrow Prize winner will be published in L.A. Parent Magazine.

The Green Feather Award is a special prize for an environmentally focused sci-fi story. The winner will receive $250 USD & online publication by the Nature Nexus Institute.

(4) IN THE BEGINNING? Whatever presents “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress” about the premise to Observer, the novel she’s co-written with Robert Lanza.

…On the one hand, could science support the idea that consciousness creates the universe?  On the other hand, wasn’t this just recycled philosophy 101 according to Irish philosopher George Berkeley, among others?…

(5) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. English-language prozine Interzone is being published in Poland by MYY Press.

(6) A GREEN MAN, BUT NOT A LITTLE ONE. MeTV remembers the time “Ted Cassidy helped Gene Roddenberry play a prank behind the scenes on Star Trek”. Here’s the first part of the story:

The first-season Star Trek episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” has a few memorable things that stand out. It gives us our second evil duplicate Kirk of the series, we get some backstory for Majel Barrett’s nurse Chapel… but arguably what sticks in the minds of fans the most is Ted Cassidy as ominous android Ruk.

At this time, Ted Cassidy was fresh off the ending of The Addams Family where he enjoyed a regular role as Lurch, the family butler. In his book Star Trek Memories, William Shatner talks about how Cassidy was cast as the seven-foot-tall, menacing android. Prior to filming, Star Trek‘s makeup artist, Freddie Phillips asked Cassidy to come in for a makeup test.

“Cassidy sat down in Phillips’ undersized makeup chair and allowed the artist to transform him from a smiling young actor to an evil, hulking monster,” Shatner writes. “First Freddie covered Ted’s head with a latex skinhead wig; then he applied a sort of greyish-green base coat over Cassidy’s entire face. Once all that was done, Phillips darkened the area around each of the actor’s eyes and employed a black grease pencil to sharpen the angles of Ted’s cheekbones, forehead and chin. The end result was quite frightening and really served to drain all the humanity from Cassidy’s face.”…

(7) BOOK KEEPING. “Floods, Fires and Humidity: How Climate Change Affects Book Preservation” in the New York Times.

…Both immediate and long-term strategies are needed to keep books secure in changing environments, experts say, but some threats are more insidious than wildfires or hurricanes.

Shifts in temperature and humidity from climate change can have large consequences. Archivists and conservators in Cincinnati, for example, are worried about big temperature swings in a single day. Humidity is on the rise in Southern California, where the climate is historically dry; most preservation systems in the area aren’t designed to manage precipitation.

“The higher the humidity, the higher the temperature, the quicker they will break down their organic materials,” said Holly Prochaska, the interim head of the Archives and Rare Books Library at the University of Cincinnati. “Leather will wet rot. Collagen fibers in vellum will tighten and shrink.”…

Institutions like U.C.L.A. are developing ways to combat humidity to work in tandem with their climate-controlled stacks and collections rooms. Now, because of climate change, Metzger thinks twice before loaning out materials, which can keep history and knowledge under lock and key.

“Books gain meaning by use — use is exhibit, use is research — and there’s a beauty in use,” Metzger said. “If we just isolate things and keep them in these little, perfectly controlled environments with guards around them, what is their meaning anymore?”

One solution is digitization — scanning pages and storing them online. The process is not only an answer to climate change; it also allows for documents to be easily accessible and shared, broadening a collection’s reach. Adding documents to a server or the cloud, though, presents its own set of obstacles, both practical and environmental.

(8) SYLVIA RUCKER (1943-2023). Sylvia Bogsch Rucker, Rudy Rucker’s wife, died January 6. He pays tribute to her in “Sylvia’s Life”.

…Her curiosity never ended, even in her final days she wanted to know the details of everyone’s lives. This special attention made everyone feel loved. Her loving, warm, beautiful spirit will be deeply missed by all….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1926 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Pooh and food

We shall talk about Pooh and food. Well actually I believe that A.E. Milne only had one food that his round little bear found interesting to the point of obsession and that was honey. Honey, often spelled Hunny by Pooh, is as you know the ever so sweet food made by bees. 

It’s easily the most important food in the Winnie-the-Pooh works, being loved by pooh bears, heffalumps and woozles and also enjoyed by rabbits and piglets. 

Pooh even called it smackerel , which is to say a snack of a small amount of honey. Indeed In the very first chapter, Pooh tells us, “the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it”.

And yes, actual bears do love honey. They’ll break open a tree to get at a wild hive inside a dead trunk eating the honey and bees alike. They particularly like the bee larvae. 

““When you wake up in the morning, Pooh” said piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.”

The illustration is from the 1926 first edition with the art by E.A. Shepherd.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 10, 1904 Ray Bolger. The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, the villainous Barnaby in Babes in Toyland, two appearances on Fantasy Island, andVector In “Greetings from Earth” on the Seventies version of Battlestar Galactica. He made a Dr. Pepper ad which you can see here. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 10, 1937 Elizabeth Anne Hull. She served as the President of the Science Fiction Research Association and editor of its newsletter. She was a member of the panel for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel since 1986. With her husband Frederik Pohl, Hull edited the Tales from the Planet Earth anthology. She was also the editor of the Gateways: Original New Stories Inspired by Frederik Pohl anthology. She has co-authored three short stories with him, “Author Plus”, “The Middle Kingdom” and “Second Best Friend”. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 10, 1944 William Sanderson, 79. I remember him best as J. F. Sebastian, the possibly insane genetic designer working for Tyrell in Blade Runner, but he’s had a career obviously after that film including appearing as Skeets in The Rocketeer, voicing Dr. Karl Rossum on Batman: The Animated Series, playing the character Deuce on Babylon 5 (a series I’ve watched through at least three times), E. B. Farnum on Deadwood (ok, it’s not genre, but it’s Will and Emma’s favorite show so let’s let it slide) and Sheriff Bud Dearborne on True Blood
  • Born January 10, 1944 Jeffrey Catherine JonesShe was an artist providing more than a hundred and fifty covers for many different types of genre books through mid seventies including the Ace paperback editions of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series including Swords Against Death. Among her work was also Flash Gordon for Charlton Comics in the Sixties and the Conan Saga for Marvel Comics in the late Eighties.  (Died 2011.)
  • Born January 10, 1947 George Alec Effinger. I’ve read his Marîd Audran series at least twice as it’s an amazing series in both the characters and the setting. I never read the short stories set in this setting until Golden Gryphon Press sent me Budayeen Nights for Green Man to review.  I don’t think I’ve ever encountered any of his other works. (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 10, 1959 Jeff Kaake, 64. He’s on the Birthday Honors list as he was Captain John Boon on the Space Rangers which lasted only six episodes. Damn. That was a fun show! He was also Thomas Cole on Viper which lasted four seasons. And he showed up in the Stormageddon film (which sounds like the name a Filer would give to a beloved  SJW Cred) as well. 
  • Born January 10, 1959 Fran Walsh, 64. Partner of Peter Jackson, she has contributed to all of his films since the late Eighties when she started out as co-writer of Meet the Feebles, and as producer since The Fellowship of the Ring which won a Hugo. Need I note the next two films won Hugos as well? The Hobbit films did not win Hugos.  The first one was nominated at LoneStarCon 3 but lost out to The Avengers; the other two were not nominated.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TOTOPOTUS. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Miranda Parkin (@mparkinb) did this piece based on Season 2 of the HBO sci-fi comedy television series Avenue 5 (2020-):

(13) LOOK CLOSER. [Item by Jo Van.] Something tonight reminded me of the Deep Space Nine Documentary What We Left Behind, which I helped to crowd-fund back in 2017, and I was thinking, wait a minute, wasn’t there something about a posted acknowledgement of the contributors?

It took a foray into the Wayback Machine, but I found it… and there’s my name, down about where Sisko’s communicator would be.

(14) GAINING CREDENTIALS. Annalisa Barbieri tells the Guardian “What the love of cats taught me about myself”.

I never thought I’d kiss a cat. Or like them, or be in a room with them. Cats, to me, were evil and unpredictable. A classic projection, if ever I saw one, of fear manifesting as dislike. Intense fear. Intense dislike.

But then I became a mother and, as we all know, maternal love makes you do strange, selfless things occasionally. My children started asking for a cat. I said no, of course. My home was my safe place. No cats allowed. For some years they asked for a cat, on and off. Eventually, the “why we should get a cat” lists started getting toilet-roll long and I started thinking, maybe we can get a kitten. Kittens are cute. I started watching videos. Kittens were cute….

(15) BIG SIXTIES FINISH. Victoria Silverwolf wraps up a review of a famous anthology: “[January 10, 1968] Saving the Best For Last (Dangerous Visions, Part Three)” at Galactic Journey.

Welcome to the last of our three discussions about an anthology of original fantasy and science fiction that’s drawing a lot of attention. Love it or hate it, or maybe a little of both, it’s impossible to ignore….

(16) ALAS, POOR UNIVAC. Arturo Serrano brings us “Microreview [book]: Hamlet, Prince of Robots by M. Darusha Wehm” at Nerds of a Feather.

No longer the seat of Danish monarchy, Elsinore is now a corporation, a leading manufacturer of human-like robots. The murdered Hamlet senior was the Humanoid Artificial Mind (Learned Emotive Type), a model that represented a huge leap ahead in robotic innovation. Instead of a queen, Gertrude is a CEO, whose hopes for Elsinore’s bottom line now depend on the success of her latest creation, the Hamlet v.2. If the company doesn’t maintain dominance of the robot market, its (figurative) throne will be snatched by its main competitor, which is aggressively promoting a rival model, the Fortinbras. But one night, a portion of old code from Hamlet v.1 copies itself into the hard drive of Hamlet v.2, and a quest for revenge begins to take shape.

Everything’s better with robots, and a retelling of one of the biggest classics in the Western canon is a sure attention grabber….

(17) ON THE SHELF. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimeralso asked the Hamlet author for recommendations in “Six Books with M. Darusha Wehm”.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’ve had it on my shelf since it came out, but only just started The Book of Flora by Meg Elison. It’s the third and final book in the “Road to Nowhere” series, which starts with The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. The whole series is an incredible, post-apocalyptic saga of the struggles of communities in dark times. I’ve loved the two previous books in the series, but while the books offer stories of human resilience, they are also harrowing to read, so I’ve had to space them out in my reading time…. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In case you missed the Sixties we offer “The Complete 14 Batman Window Cameos”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Jo Van, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 12/31/22 Because I Would Not Scroll For Pixel, He Kindly Scrolled For Me

(1) BREAKING THE FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD WALL. MUTTS educates everyone in “How to Read a Comic Strip: Part 1”.

Recently, a series of Patrick’s MUTTS comic strips centered playfully on the comic strip lexicon, so we thought it might be fun to round up those strips as a comic strip primer of sorts. There are probably no surprises here if you’re a lifelong fan of the funny pages, but we know that the things we take for granted might not be intuitive to people reading a comic strip for the first time.

So on that note, here are some rules that comic strips live by…

(2) DETER ONLINE ART THEFT. Eli Benik tells “How to prepare your art to post online because fuck AI” in an unlocked Patreon post.

…From what I can tell, there are already plenty of excellent resources for preparing files to print, but I have not seen much in the way of preparing files to safely post online to prevent art theft. Specifically, how to reduce DPI and file size without your art looking like complete garbage in an online portfolio. 

In this post, I’ll walk you through the basics of saving your image files to prepare them to post online. I’m using Photoshop CS6 for this tutorial, but pretty much any other art editing program should have these options, if not something similar….

(3) THEY’RE SELLING, HE’S NOT BUYING. If you need somebody to join you in grumping at some of 2022’s fantasy streaming efforts, Camestros Felapton is your man: “The Third Prequelf: The Witcher – Blood Origins”.

…The selling point for all prequelfs is the suggestion that viewers will get more of the same but with a different plot. You liked Lord of the Rings? Well, what if you could watch a different story in the same world? Loved Westeros? What if you could go back to that? Enjoyed Herny Cavill as the Witcher? Well, what if you can go to the same world but it has Lenny Henry in it?

All three mine the back story of the properties to deliver an extra hit of middle-earthy-place but that back story is about a different part of history. It would be weird to make a series about, say, the Tudors and then set a story hundred years earlier that had the same sort of world. …

(4) STILL UNDER ATTACK. Sarah’s Scribbles creator Sarah Andersen writes in an NYT op-ed, “The Alt-Right Manipulated My Comic. Then A.I. Claimed It.”

…The [alt-right] harassment shocked the naïveté out of my system. A shadow me hung over my head constantly, years after the harassment campaign ended. I had been writing differently, always trying to stay one step ahead of how my drawings could be twisted. Every deranged image the alt-right created required someone sitting down and physically editing or drawing it, and this took time and effort, allowing me to outpace them and salvage my career.

And then along comes artificial intelligence. In October, I was sent via Twitter an image generated by A.I. from a random fan who had used my name as a prompt. It wasn’t perfect, but the contours of my style were there. The notion that someone could type my name into a generator and produce an image in my style immediately disturbed me. This was not a human creating fan art or even a malicious troll copying my style; this was a generator that could spit out several images in seconds. With some technical improvement, I could see how the process of imitating my work would soon become fast and streamlined, and the many dark potentials bubbled to the forefront of my mind.

I felt violated. The way I draw is the complex culmination of my education, the comics I devoured as a child and the many small choices that make up the sum of my life….

(5) BEST FLICKS EVER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I made an ultra, ultra quick pass through the list of 100 and came up with almost 20 genre films. Including the top two. I included Bond and a couple of other things like it but excluded some other edge cases. So YMMV. A lot. “The 100 Best Movies of All Time: Critics’ Picks” in Variety. A fantasy film is #2! The sff film ranking lowest on the list is —

97. Alien (1979)   

A smothering tentacled thingy attaches itself to an astronaut’s face. Several scenes later, an alien fetus erupts right out of his belly, and the cinema would never be the same. Director Ridley Scott, drawing on the imagery of H.R Giger, staged a kind of Skinner box sci-fi nightmare that left audiences in a state of primal shock. Scott envisioned the film’s spaceship not in clean Kubrickian whites but in shades of murk that could speak to the film’s queasy fusion of the organic and the inorganic. And once Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley starts to take on the monster all by herself, a paradigm shift is born: the female action hero, who Weaver invested with such fierce, industrious, yet tossed-off authority that it’s as if she’d always been there.  

(6) FIREWORKS IN FANTASY, AN APPRECIATION.

[By Cat Eldridge.]

So shall we talk about fireworks in genre Literature on this, the last day of the year? Yes, let’s do that. Warning: there be SPOILERS here. Really we cannot avoid them. If that will be a problem for you, Ellen Kushner I hear is making hot chocolate down in Riverside. 

There’s only an appropriate place to begin with this conversation and that’s with the splendid fireworks created for eleventy first birthday: 

Gandalf’s fireworks were very impressive to the hobbits, who hadn’t seen their like since the Old Took died many years ago. Green trees with scented flowers, singing birds, eagles, and sailing ships were all effects created through Gandalf’s work with colored smokes and lights. The finale was a large red-gold dragon that flew out of a mountain, breathing fire and circling over the Hobbits’ heads, before exploding over Bywater. This was in honor of Bilbo’s adventures during the Quest of Erebor and was also the signal for supper.    

But there are others as well, not just in fantasy but in SF too. On Babylon 5 in “The Long Night”, when the Centuria occupation of the Nara homework is over and Mollari and Cotto are leaving there to go the home, fireworks light up the night sky as the Narns celebrate the Centauri are leaving and that the long nightmare of their occupation has ended. 

Other SF one is in The Return of The Jedi when Luke sets a torch to the logs stacked under a funeral pyre where his  father’s body lies, again dressed in black mask and helmet. He stands, watching sadly, as the flames leap higher to consume Darth Vader —  Anakin Skywalker. In the sky above, fireworks explode and Rebel fighters zoom above the forest.

Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf has fireworks as part of the plot, to precise  The town’s annual fireworks celebration is cancelled because of the monster’s attacks, but the use of illicit fireworks by Marty half-blinds the monster when it attacks him on the 4th of July.

Finally our last choice is from the Potter universe. In the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix film, Fred and George set off the fireworks in the middle of the Charms O.W.L. Exam. Some of the fireworks go after Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle. Fred and George then set off a rather larger and quite real dragon-shaped firework, which went after Umbridge. Just outside the Great Hall, its jaws closed around her causing it to explode and destroy all of Umbridge’s Educational Decrees. She is rather annoyed. 

So what’s your favorite use of fireworks in genre fiction? 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 31, 1937 Anthony Hopkins, 85. I think one of his most impressive roles was as Richard in The Lion in Winter but we can’t even call that genre adjacent, can we? Oh yes we can as it is most definitely alternate history. He was, during that period, also King Claudius in Hamlet. I’ll say playing Ian McCandless in Freejack is his true genre role, and being Professor Abraham Van Helsing In Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a plum of a genre role. It’s a better role than he as Odin has the MCU film franchise. What else have I missed that I should note? 
  • Born December 31, 1943 Ben Kingsley, 79. Speaking of Kipling as we did yesterday, he voiced Bagherra in the live action adaptation that Disney did of The Jungle Book. He was also in Iron Man 3 as Trevor Slattery, a casting not well received. He’s The Hood in Thunderbirds (directed by Frakes btw), Charles Hatton in A Sound of Thunder and Merenkahre in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third of three great popcorn films.
  • Born December 31, 1945 Barbara Carrera, 77. She is known for being the SPECTRE assassin Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again, and as Maria in The Island of Dr. Moreau. And she was Victoria Spencer in the really awful Embryo, a film that that over five hundred review reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a sixteen percent rating. 
  • Born December 31, 1945 Connie Willis, 77. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for her work, a feat that impresses me! Of her works, I’m most pleased by To Say Nothing of the DogDoomsday Book and Bellwether, an offbeat novel look at chaos theory. I’ve not read enough of her shorter work to give an informed opinion of it, so do tell me what’s good there. She’s very well stocked at the usual suspects and quite a number of her works qualify as Meredith moments. 
  • Born December 31, 1949 Ellen Datlow, 73. Let’s start this Birthday note by saying I own a complete set of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror which yes, I know it was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy for the first year. And I still read stories from them from time to time.  If that was all she had done, she’d have been one of our all-time anthologists but she also, again with Terri Windling, did the Fairy Tale and Mythic Fiction series, both of which I highly recommend. On her own, she has the ongoing Best Horror of Year, now a decade old, and the Tor.com anthologies which I’ve not read but I assume collect the fiction from the site.  Speaking of Tor.com, she’s an editor there, something she’s also done at Nightmare MagazineOmni, the hard copy magazine and online, Sci Fiction webzine and Subterranean Magazine. And yes, she won a number of Hugos for her editing including one this year which she richly deserved. 
  • Born December 31, 1953 Jane Badler, 69. I first encountered her on the Australian-produced Mission Impossible where she played Shannon Reed for the two seasons of that superb series. She’s apparently best known as Diana, the main antagonist on V, but I never saw any of that series being overseas at the time. She shows up in the classic Fantasy IslandSir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost WorldBitch, Popcorn & Blood and Virtual Revolution.
  • Born December 31, 1959 Val Kilmer, 63. Lead role in Batman Forever where I thought he did a decent job, Madmartigan in Willow, Montgomery in The Island of Dr. Moreau, voiced both Moses and God in The Prince of Egypt, uncredited role as El Cabillo in George and the Dragon and voiced KITT in the not terribly well-conceived reboot of Knight Rider. Best role? Ahhh that’d be Doc Holliday in Tombstone. Nope, not even genre adjacent but I really, really love that film. 
  • Born December 31, 1971 Camilla Larsson, 51. Therese in the first series of Real Humans on Swedish television. She was Jenny in the Mormors magiska vind series which is definitely genre given it’s got a ghost and pirate parrots in it! 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld finds the highly scientific attitude toward the New Year is unwelcome by some.

(9) MARVEL YEAR’S EVE. The Spider-Verse Unlimited Jackpot Question #31 launched today. Writer: J. Holtham; Artist: Fend Hamilton; Colorist: Pete Pantazis; Editor: Ellie Pyle.

It’s New Year’s Eve and Madame Web, AKA Julia Carpenter, is going to a party. When she takes a turn with an unexpected dance partner, what will Julia make of the New Year’s visions that result?

(10) PRIME TIME. Thanks to SYFY Wire for pointing us at the “Amazon The Boys ’90s sitcom trailer parody”.

… Amazon has proved once again that anything — even the most hardcore of superhero shows — can be transformed into a piece of heartwarming television with a grainy VHS filter and an upbeat soundtrack. For no reason in particular, the streaming platform has reimagined the adult-oriented project as a ’90s sitcom. Because why the hell not, right? If you’re new to The Boys, be warned that this is not an accurate representation of what goes on in Vought Land….

(11) JOURNALS OF JOCULAR SCIENCE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Hulk and She-Hulk biomedical implications were the subject of a discussion paper in the Christmas/New Year edition of the British Medical Journal: “She-Hulk: an incredible case of transfusion associated graft versus host disease”.The Festive season can be rather fun in some science journals, especially those, I have noticed over the years, with slightly older editors. (I don’t know why this is but tentatively suspect that younger editors take themselves, and want be taken, more seriously where as oldies who have been around the block a few times simply don’t care.)

Anyway, there were a number of interesting academic papers in the festive mix this year including one rather disturbing piece of research, “Can artificial intelligence pass the Fellowship of the Royal College of Radiologists examination? Multi-reader diagnostic accuracy study”, which pitted real-life radiologists against an artificial intelligence giving them a Royal College of Radiologists examination. It demonstrated that all that is preventing artificial intelligence from replacing radiologists is training AIs, showing them a sufficiently large number (many thousands) of x-ray pictures of medical problems… Forgive me, I stray.

Meanwhile back at the plot and the discussion paper on aspects of She-Hulk biomedicine.

Transfusion associated graft versus host disease (TaGVHD) is a rare complication of blood transfusion in which viable lymphocytes within a blood product survive and proliferate in a recipient. This process results in an almost always fatal form of graft-versus-host disease, with donor T cells attacking multiple organs.

This discussion paper analyses a high profile case of non-lethal TaGVHD due to inadvertent blood contamination of an open wound after a car accident. While both donor and recipient survived the crash and contamination, the recipient was left with unexpected side effects, namely inheriting the ability of the donor to transform into a huge, green-rage monster.

The celebrity nature of this case means that the identities of both donor and recipient as well as the details of the incident are already in the public domain. The donor is Bruce Banner MD, PhD, PhD, otherwise known as the strongest Avenger. The recipient is Jennifer Walters, JD – also known as She-Hulk of high profile law firm Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg, and Holliway, the only legal firm in the world representing superhuman clients.

The paper concludes that while superheroes as blood and bone marrow donors capture the imagination, the safety of engaging super-powered individuals as donors is far from established. However, this case will hopefully encourage normal humans to donate blood – allowing them to become the real heroes….

(12) YEAR IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Well, that was 2022.

And this is how we got there…

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel. Signing off 2022 now — see you on the other side!]

Pixel Scroll 12/22/22 Although It’s Been Said Many Times, Many Ways, Scrolling Pixels To You

(1) PHILADELPHIA READ’EM. On January 18, 2023 the Galactic Philadelphia Literary Salon, curated by Lawrence M. Schoen and Sally Wiener Grotta, will host Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and C.S.E. Cooney as they read from their latest work, and “converse with them and other guests in an informal and engaging salon-style conversation.” This will be an in-person event at The Rosenbach Museum & Library – full details and registration cost at the link.

(2) KINDRED FOR TV. NPR’s program The 1A tells how “Octavia Butler’s ‘Kindred’ is being discovered by new readers, and now viewers”. At the link, listen to a conversation with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kindred’s executive producer and writer.  

Imagine suddenly being pulled back in time, without warning or explanation. Where is the place you’d least like to go? 

In the 1979 novel “Kindred,” author Octavia Butler sent her main character – a Black woman – back to the antebellum south of the 1800s.  Dana lands amongst her ancestors, who were owned as slaves.  

The sci-fi book is a modern classic – a cornerstone of afro-futurism that made waves in a genre dominated by white men. “Kindred” is still being discovered by new readers today – and by viewers.  

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins adapted “Kindred” into a new FX series of the same name on Hulu, which premiered Dec. 13. Jacobs-Jenkins is a talented writer in his own right, having received the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play for “Appropriate” and “An Octoroon.”

He’s also a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama, and was the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant.” His previous TV production credits include the 2019 HBO series “Watchmen” and the Prime Video sci-fi series “Outer Range.”

(3) IN A WORLD WHERE. According to Gizmodo, “Court Case Ruling Could Make ‘Deceptive’ Trailers Legally Actionable”.

When two fans of Ana de Armas rented Yesterday after seeing de Armas in the trailer, only to realize at the end of the movie that her part had been cut, they were so unhappy that they went to court over it. And won. In a rather bizarre Free Speech case, a federal judge has ruled in favor of movie-goers over the protests of Universal Studios, saying that studios cannot release “deceptive movie trailers.”

The two de Armas fans, Conor Woulfe and Peter Michael Rosza, each paid $3.99 to rent Yesterdayan alternate-history speculative film about the disappearance of The Beatles, on Amazon Prime. de Armas’ part was cut after filmgoers responded that they didn’t enjoy the fact that the main character’s love interest (played by Lily James) had competition in the form of de Armas’ character. Woulfe and Rosza are seeking “at least $5 million as representatives of a class of movie customers,” according to Variety….

(4) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 73 of the Octothorpe podcast is “A Magic Cave Full of Games”. Listen at the link.

John Coxon is going to Sweden, Alison Scott is going to Australia, and Liz Batty isn’t moving back to Europe. We discuss Smofcon, Eurocon, Mastodon, and bacon lardons. (The last one is a lie.) We also chat about the Fan Funds and do picks (which don’t rhyme).

(5) HEAR FROM KEN MACLEOD. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at Media Death Cult has just interviewed Ken MacLeod

But we over at SF2 Concatenation have Ken’s science heroes… “SF author and zoologist Ken MacLeod cites the scientists and engineers born in the 20th Century who have influenced him.”

 I’m not really a scientist who became a science fiction writer. I’m a science fiction reader who tried to become a scientist, because science fiction made science cool. At school my progress in mathematics hit a brick wall at calculus, and in physics at electronics. So at university I chose biology — then the least mathematical of the sciences — and specialised in Zoology….

(6) WOOSTER MEMORIES. In “Martin Morse Wooster’s Front Row Seat” Reason’s Thomas W. Hazlett delivers an affectionate farewell.

… Martin devoured entire libraries as after-dinner mints, emerging ever more curious about what great work of history, politics, biography, economics, sports, or science fiction (pardon me, “S.F.”) to hoist next. He cherished baseball, exhibits, museums, stage plays, conventions, the science of beer making, free market capitalism, and the United States. He was bogged down neither by car payments nor dependents. He lived richly on a tidy budget, zipped about on public transport, viewed every parade, and devoured each spectacle. When he paid for a movie, he would always—his sister, Ann-Sargent Wooster, informs me—insist on sitting front row…. 

On the epic fall of the Soviet bloc, Wooster wrote frequently. In a 1989 Reason column introduced by Irving Kristol’s observation that “In Washington, people don’t read enough magazines,” it was game on. 

“This may be true in Washington,” noted Martin, “but out here in Silver Spring, we read magazines by the truckload… Once each day, the factory whistles blow, the police officers stop traffic, and the double-wide tractor trailers lumber chez Wooster with the day’s reading matter.”…

(7) CHRIS BOUCHER (1943-2022). Writer and script editor Chris Boucher, who contributed milestone moments to Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, died December 11. The Guardian paid tribute.

… Having quickly made his mark on Doctor Who in 1977, he was recruited the following year as script editor of Blake’s 7, Terry Nation’s series about a gang of outlaws fighting against a corrupt Federation in the future. Responsible for commissioning and then polishing the scripts, Boucher capitalised on the bristling dynamic between the central characters, highlighted by his gift for caustic dialogue, and exploited the programme’s morally grey areas to give it dramatic complexity.

Among the scripts he wrote himself was the shocking 1981 finale, in which he killed off the whole cast, in a manner emblematic of the show’s flawed protagonists, dour outlook and uncompromising tone….

…Braden’s Week (1968), Dave Allen at Large (1971) and That’s Life (1973) used his material, and he secured himself an agent who pitched him to Doctor Who. He was well versed in science-fiction literature, so his first contribution, The Face of Evil (1977), had a bold concept: a misprogrammed spaceship computer thinks it is God, and so embarks on an exercise in eugenics involving its stranded crew. The story (originally entitled The Day God Went Mad: a tad strong for the BBC) also introduced a new companion for Tom Baker’s Doctor: instinctive, intelligent tribal warrior Leela (Louise Jameson) and contains one of Boucher’s great lines: “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common, they don’t alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views.”

Boucher was immediately hired to write the very next story, The Robots of Death. A fusion of Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert, it became more than a sum of its parts thanks to Boucher’s sardonic exchanges (“You’re a classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain”), well-drawn characters, world-building through dialogue and hard sci-fi concepts. Augmented by a strong cast, excellent direction and striking art deco design, the story is still regarded as among Doctor Who’s very best. Image of the Fendahl (1977) is a spooky synthesis of modern technology and ancient horror with some shocking moments and amusing characters (“You must think my head zips up at the back,” says one)….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2000 [By Cat Eldridge.]

Ready for a really happy story? Well we have one for you.

It starts out because J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up or Peter and Wendy,  lived near the hospital, and was well known for donations to charity as he lived rather simply. He is listed as first donating to the hospital in 1908, and became more familiar with the hospital’s work after he hired a personal secretary, Lady Cynthia Asqueth, whose father was the chairman of the hospital board. 

However when the hospital had asked Barrie to help with a fundraising campaign in 1929 by making a generous donation in order to purchase a vacated lot, he declined. That’s not the end of the story as two months later he announced that he would give the copyright of Peter Pan to the hospital. Of course the hospital was rather grateful to say the least. 

(These arrangements should have expired in 1987, fifty years after the death of Sir James Barrie. But special measures were made in the Copyright Designs & Patents Act (1988), so that a single exception was made for the ongoing benefit of the hospital.) 

A year after Great Ormond Street Hospital was given the rights to Peter and Wendy, Barrie asked the hospital to stage it in a ward for the sick children. The production was considered a wonderful affair by all involved and has become a tradition that still continues today. 

There are many Peter Pan tributes within the children’s wing including a cafe and stained windows, some of which we will return to at another time, but today a bronze statue of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell outside the hospital entrance is what were interested in.

A statue of Peter Pan stands at the entrance to the hospital, blowing fairy dust at all visitors, young and old. It was sculpted by Diarmund O’Connor and was unveiled by Lord Callaghan on July 14, 2000. Tinkerbell, who is actually a separate statue, was added to Peter’s uplifted arm in 2005. Tinkerbell is officially London’s smallest statue.

The combined statue bears this inscription:

Peter Pan

In grateful memory of Sir James Barrie (1860 – 1937) for his gift to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and in warm appreciation of the exceptional support of Audrey and James Callaghan.

The Tinker Bell statue once it was carefully attached to the Peter Pan was unveiled by the Countess of Wessex on September 29th, 2005. Although a later addition, it was part of the original conception back in 1999 when Peter was commissioned, but dropped at the time as being too ambitious. It is a credit to Peter’s popularity that the issue was redressed.

Why such a simple addition was considered too ambitious is a mystery. She is a rather simple sculpture after all. Here’s Tinkerbell by herself.

I don’t usually give you two versions of a statue but it’s rare that we get to see the clay version of it. So here is that version in the sculptor’s studio.

And here’s the final bronze state as it is in the garden outside the Hospital. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 22, 1917 Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested that it was he inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. (He did not do the voice you heard on film, that was done by Marvin Miller who in-studio replaced what was done originally.) Other than showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other genre roles at all. Well, he was Lampwick, the boy who turns into a donkey in Pinocchio. That should count too. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 22, 1944 Michael Summerton. One of the original Dalek operators, his work would show up in three First Doctor stories, “The Survivor”, “The Escape” and “The Ambush”. He’s interviewed for “The Creation of The Daleks” documentary which is included in the 2006 The Beginning DVD box set. According to his Telegraph obit, he was the last survivor of the original four operators of the Daleks. So, you don’t need to get past their paywall, here’s the Who part here: “After a lean period, he was excited to be offered a part in a new BBC science fiction series. His agent told him he would not need to learn any lines for the casting, and when he arrived at the BBC workshops he was asked to strip down to his underpants and sit in what appeared to be a tub on castors. Summerton (who was one of the four original Daleks) was instructed in how to move this apparatus about, the director saying: ‘We want to test this prototype for maneuverability. We want you to move forwards, backwards, sideways. Quickly, slowly.’ Presently the director lowered a lid over him with a plunger sticking out of it. Summerton found himself in total darkness. He would later relate: ‘When the lid went on I knew my career as an actor was over.’” (Died 2009.)
  • Born December 22, 1951 Tony Isabella, 71. Creator of DC’s Black Lightning, who is their first major African-American superhero. That alone is enough reason to him in Birthdays. He also created Mercedes “Misty” Knight, an African-American superhero at Marvel Comics who’s played by Simone Missick in the various Netflix MCU series. 
  • Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 71. I’ve personally known him for some twenty-five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer so let just list some of my favorite novels by him which would be Forests of The HeartSomeplace To Be FlyingSeven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here.
  • Born December 22, 1962 Ralph Fiennes, 60. Perhaps best-known genre wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films that just wrapped up and started with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films. If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it!
  • Born December 22, 1965 David S. Goyer, 57. His screenwriting credits include the Blade trilogy which I like despite their unevenness in storytelling, the Dark Knight trilogy, Dark CityMan of Steel, and its sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which is horrid). Let’s see what else is there? Well there’s there’s a Nick Fury film and two Ghost film which are all best forgotten… Oh, he did The Crow: City of Angels. Ouch. Series wise, he’s been involved in FlashForwardConstantineDa Vinci’s Demons which is a damn strange show, KryptonBlade: The SeriesThresholdFreakyLinks and a series I’ve never heard of, Sleepwalkers
  • Born December 22, 1978 George Mann, 44. Author of the Newbury & Hobbes Investigations, a steampunk series set in a alternative Victorian England that I’ve read and enthusiastically recommend. He’s also got two Holmesian novels on Titan Books that I need to request for reviewing, Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead and Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box. And yes I see that  he’s written a lot more  fiction than I’ve read by him so do tell me what else is worth reading  by him. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has the surly version of a childrens’ book hero.

(11) COPYRIGHT OFFICE REVOKES DECISION. “AI-Created Comic Has Been Deemed Ineligible for Copyright Protection” reports CBR.com.

The United States Copyright Office (USCO) reversed an earlier decision to grant a copyright to a comic book that was created using “A.I. art,” and announced that the copyright protection on the comic book will be revoked, stating that copyrighted works must be created by humans to gain official copyright protection.

In September, Kris Kashtanova announced that they had received a U.S. copyright on his comic book, Zarya of the Dawn, a comic book inspired by their late grandmother that she created with the text-to-image engine Midjourney. Kashtanova referred to herself as a “prompt engineer” and explained at the time that she went to get the copyright so that she could “make a case that we do own copyright when we make something using AI.”…

(12) TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS OF 2022. “Beaton’s ‘Ducks’ Tops PW’s 2022 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” proclaims Publishers Weekly.

Kate Beaton’s widely acclaimed debut graphic memoir Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (Drawn & Quarterly) has topped PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll for best work of the year by a significant margin, receiving nine votes from PW’s panel of 15 critics. This is Beaton’s second time winning the poll; she won in 2011 for Hark A Vagrant.

Beaton’s adroitly told personal narrative is a bracing exposé of the sexism and misogyny women face working in the nearly all-male oil fields, as well as a plaintive and incisive critique of the industry’s destructive impact on the environment. Nevertheless, Beaton’s personal story is balanced with humor and rich with canny, wry vignettes of her crusty work colleagues, rendered along with breathtaking depictions of the desolate landscape of the oil fields. One of very few women working in the male-dominated work force, Beaton tracks the two years she spent working various jobs (such as handing out wrenches at a tool crib) in Northern Canada’s remote oil fields, while depicting the lives of her co-workers—all of them separated from family and home lives….

…Indie publishers secured top positions overall in this year’s poll, with second place a tie between two titles that received four votes each: Keeping Two by Jordan Crane (Fantagraphics) and the graphic memoir The Third Person by Emma Grove (Drawn & Quarterly).

(13) THE BLUES. “Don’t give up, never surrender,” is not everyone’s motto. “Edie Falco Assumed Avatar 2 Flopped After Filming Part 4 Years Ago” is what People heard.

Edie Falco didn’t realize when her appearance in Avatar: The Way of Water would be hitting movie theaters.

The 59-year-old actress shot her scenes four years ago and just assumed the movie had been released and potentially flopped since she hadn’t heard anything, she admitted while visiting The View on Friday.

The second Avatar, the one that’s coming out, I think I shot four years ago,” she shared at The View roundtable. “And then I’ve been busy, and doing stuff, and somebody mentioned Avatar, and I thought, ‘Oh, I guess it came out and didn’t do very well,’ cause I didn’t hear anything.”

The actress continued: “And then somebody recently said, ‘Avatar is coming out.’ “

“Oh, it hasn’t come out yet?” she remembered asking, getting laughs from the audience. “I haven’t seen the new one, so I’m excited.”

Talking more about the film, in which she plays one of the few human characters, the Nurse Jackie actress admitted she was a little disappointed when she found out who she’d be playing.

“Well, I wanted to be blue,” she said, laughing. “I was excited – I was going to be blue and very tall… I didn’t get either of those things.”

(14) BEST PICTURES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s Nature has open access loads of James Webb pics: “JWST’s best images: spectacular stars and spiralling galaxies” (example attached of Neptune).

Also open access best science pics of the year: “The best science images of 2022”. Example attached of an insect turned into a zombie by fungus. And the Tonga volcanic explosion from space

(15) REST IN DUST. “NASA’s InSight Mission Dies After 4 Years of Listening for Marsquakes” – the New York Times has the “obituary”.

…For months, mission managers have been expecting this as dust accumulated on the lander’s solar panels, blocking the sunlight the stationary spacecraft needs to generate power.

InSight, which arrived on the surface of Mars more than four years ago to measure the red planet’s seismological shaking, was last in touch on Dec. 15. But nothing was heard during the last two communication attempts, and NASA announced on Wednesday that it was unlikely for it ever to hear from InSight again.

“I feel sad, but I also feel pretty good,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an interview. “We’ve been expecting this to come to an end for some time.”

He added, “I think that it’s been a great run.”

InSight — the name is a compression of the mission’s full name, Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — was a diversion from NASA’s better known rover missions, focusing on the mysteries of Mars’s deep interior instead of searching for signs of water and possible extinct life on the red planet…. 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Daniel Dern, SG Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 12/20/22 The Filezentian Gate

(1) PRESIDENT’S DAY WEEKEND.  Get ready for Boskone 60, coming February 17-19, 2023 in Boston – and via the internet. The convention’s guests are Nalo Hopkinson – Guest of Honor; Victo Ngai – Official Artist; Tui T. Sutherland – Special Guest; and Dave Clement – Musical Guest. Full information at the link.

Boskone 60 will be held in person at The Westin Boston Seaport District hotel, 425 Summer Street, Boston, MA. You can also attend in person at our incredible 3-day convention, starting in the afternoon on Friday, February 17, 2023, at 2:00 pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and running through Sunday, February 19. We are also planning to make a portion of our programming available for virtual members and virtual program participants.

You can experience Boskone virtually for only $24.60!

(2) MEDICAL STRUGGLE. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Kelly Barnhill, winner of the 2016 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella, is marking one year since she missed a step, hit her head, fell down a flight of stairs, and was unconscious for 15 minutes.Recovery from concussion is slow; as a result, she says, writing fiction is not currently possible. Thread starts here. Some excerpts:

(3) AI YI YI. Alyssa Shotwell brings readers up to date about why “Tor Faces Major Backlash for AI Art for Upcoming Novel From Bestselling Author” in The Mary Sue.

…The comments accusing Tor of using AI art in Christopher Paolini‘s follow-up to To Sleep in a Sea of StarsFractal Noise, came as early as November (when the cover was revealed), but it wasn’t until December when more people realized what happened. Around December 9, pressure had built up, and those concerned demanded an answer from Tor and Paolini. On December 15, Tor released this statement on their social media:

“Tor Books designed the cover for Fractal Noise by Christopher Paolini. During the process of creating this cover, we licensed an image from a reputable stock house. We were not aware that the image may have been created by AI. Our in-house designer used the licensed image to create the cover, which was presented to Christopher for approval. Due to production constraints, we have decided to move ahead with our current cover. Tor Publishing Group has championed creators in the SFF community since our founding and will continue to do so.”

At first glance, it’s easy to take at least the first part of this as truth. As far back as September, stock websites and individuals began to host AI art for licensing purposes. Since then, it’s only grown, with Adobe Stock and the portfolio site Artstation catering to AI art. Shutterstock even inked a deal with AI generators in October. Between the sites hosting the images and the companies (like Tor) using them, there are no guidelines for even labeling AI art. It’s being mixed in with human-made art. The AI image created (from stolen images) for the base of Fractal Noise is not even labeled as AI created on Shutterstock.

… Tor knew they would continue to get backlash because, in that tweet, they turned off replies. Most of the people talking about it are retweets, and the conversation continues in those replies….

… Paolini has given mixed responses to the whole situation and has been tweeting (and replying) a lot. He spoke about the value of an artist in the book illustration process and how he’s always shared fan art of his works. Paolini commissioned work from artists and illustrated many elements of his Inheritance Saga (Eragon, etc.), including the map of Alagaësia. He also stated that this AI art situation is not ideal. Most other comments from the author remain neutral.

This is disappointing, as a reader of his books and as an artist, not to see him take a stronger stance on this, at least in a professional setting….

(4) CRICHTON, POURNELLE, AND BENFORD IN 2005. Camestros Felapton resumes following strands of right-wing and reactionary thought within science fiction in a new series “Contrarian Cli-Fi” about sff writers who took a contrarian view of climate change. The latest chapter, “Contrarian Cli-Fi 0.07: Aftermath 2005”, makes a real effort at fairness, it seemed to me, at a time when the internet gives no cookies for such efforts.  

…A great deal about science communication had changed over the intervening time between Fallen Angels and State of Fear. Whereas in past decades science magazines and hybrid sci-fi/science magazines like Analog or OMNI were a key part of science communication to a broader audience of people interested but not experts in science, in the 2000s science blogging was a growing channel between actual scientists and the public.

Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear also helped spur actual climate scientists to counter Crichton’s views (and doubts about global warming more generally) directly on the web. One of the most interesting exchanges in the wake of State of Fear was, unsurprisingly, on Pournelle’s own blog in 2005.

I’ve cast Pournelle as a right-wing ideologue pushing the contrarian view on climate change but he also manifestly had a genuine interest in climate science. He absolutely wanted to understand the scientific debate if only to refute it on its own terms. In the wake of the State of Fear discussion about global warming and global cooling would be a major topic on his blog. In part that debate was fuelled by reactions to Crichton’s novel in science and science fiction communities.

One obvious overlap between State of Fear, scientists and science fiction writers was author and physicist Gregory Benford. In a 2003 speech by Crichton that presaged the sceptical position of his novel, Crichton had quoted a paper by a panel that included Benford published in Science[1]: …

…Benford responded in a column in the San Diego Tribune published in 2005 taking apart many of Crichton’s claims and misleading statements. Benford unequivocally stated that Crichton was getting his science wrong, relying on secondary sources and misunderstanding those sources….

(5) TRYING TO PREDICT THE PRESENT. “Bezos appears to lose interest in the Washington Post as its tech ambitions wither” reports Semafor.

THE SCOOP

Earlier this month, Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan and a handful of executives traveled to Seattle for a budget meeting with owner Jeff Bezos. The paper’s executive editor Sally Buzbee was not in attendance, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.

Turmoil back in Washington, DC has followed. Ryan abruptly announced a round of layoffs. Buzbee appeared to distance herself from her publisher. The Post and Buzbee did not respond to requests for comment.

And employees and observers of the Post alike were left wondering what Bezos is doing with the publication….

(6) AMAZON CURBED IN EU ACTION. A European Union press release announced the final “commitments” made by Amazon to avoid further enforcement action, including fines. “Antitrust: Commission accepts commitments by Amazon barring it from using marketplace seller data, and ensuring equal access to Buy Box and Prime”.

To address the Commission’s competition concerns in relation to both investigations, Amazon initially offered the following commitments:

– To address the data use concern, Amazon proposed to commit:

      • not to use non-public data relating to, or derived from, the independent sellers’ activities on its marketplace, for its retail business. This applies to both Amazon’s automated tools and employees that could cross-use the data from Amazon Marketplace, for retail decisions;
      • not to use such data for the purposes of selling branded goods as well as its private label products.

– To address the Buy Box concern, Amazon proposed to commit to:

      • treat all sellers equally when ranking the offers for the purposes of the selection of the Buy Box winner;
      • display a second competing offer to the Buy Box winner if there is a second offer from a different seller that is sufficiently differentiated from the first one on price and/or delivery. Both offers will display the same descriptive information and provide the same purchasing experience.

– To address the Prime concerns Amazon proposed to commit to:

      • set non-discriminatory conditions and criteria for the qualification of marketplace sellers and offers to Prime;
      • allow Prime sellers to freely choose any carrier for their logistics and delivery services and negotiate terms directly with the carrier of their choice;
      • not use any information obtained through Prime about the terms and performance of third-party carriers, for its own logistics services.

Between 14 July 2022 and 9 September 2022, the Commission market tested Amazon’s commitments and consulted all interested third parties to verify whether they would remove its competition concerns. In light of the outcome of this market test, Amazon amended the initial proposal and committed to:

      • Improve the presentation of the second competing Buy Box offer by making it more prominent and to include a review mechanism in case the presentation is not attracting adequate consumer attention;
      • Increase the transparency and early information flows to sellers and carriers about the commitments and their newly acquired rights, enabling, amongst others, early switching of sellers to independent carriers;
      • Lay out the means for independent carriers to directly contact their Amazon customers, in line with data-protection rules, enabling them to provide equivalent delivery services to those offered by Amazon;
      • Improve carrier data protection from use by Amazon’s competing logistics services, in particular concerning cargo profile information;
      • Increase the powers of the monitoring trustee by introducing further notification obligations;
      • Introduce a centralised complaint mechanism, open to all sellers and carriers in case of suspected non-compliance with the commitments.
      • Increase to seven years, instead of the initially proposed five years, the duration of the commitments relating to Prime and the second competing Buy Box offer.

The Commission found that Amazon’s final commitments will ensure that Amazon does not use marketplace seller data for its own retail operations and that it grants non-discriminatory access to Buy Box and Prime. 

(7) HENRY MORRISON OBIT. Literary agent Henry Morrison died November 2 at the age of 86. The Publishers Weekly noted his sff connections.

…Morrison struck out on his own before he turned 30.

For the next 55 years, characters and storylines in the books and films whose rights Morrison sold became household American names, Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and David Morrell’s Rambo among them. A particularly prolific agent in the crime and thriller genres, other authors in the space Morrison represented included Brian Garfield, Dean Koontz, Eric van Lustbader, Matt Scudder, and Donald E. Westlake. He also represented the science fiction writers Samuel R. Delany (one of his earliest clients) and Roger Zelazny. His well-rewarded midlist writers won multiple Edgars and served as Mystery Writers of America presidents, Grandmasters, and International ThrillerMasters….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2014 [By Cat Eldridge.] Frankenstein in Geneva 

Tonight’s creature is one that y’all will now very well, that of  Frankenstein’s monster, though almost everyone now calls it Frankenstein. Philistines. 

While the writer was English, the story was written and takes place in Geneva, Switzerland where this statue is placed in the spot where it goes on a rampage and kills his creator’s brother. 

KLAT, a Geneva artist collective, so there was no individual sculptor listed for this work, created this nearly eight-foot-tall cast bronze sculpture. “Franc” as they call him,  is dressed in ragged clothes, which represents not the character from the novel, but “the figure of the vagrant or the marginal”. With his hunchback, his scars including those of face and hooded sweatshirt and old jeans cut at the knees, it is not at all in keeping with Shelley’s original description of the monster in her novel, but more in line with the modern interpretation of a zombie-like creature. 

The statue was unveiled in May 2014, and is part of the collection of the Contemporary Art Fund of the City of Geneva. That unveiling was — shall we say? — quite electrifying?

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1925 Nicole Maurey. She appeared in The Day of the Triffids as Christine Durrant, and was Elena Antonescu in Secret of the Incas, a film its Wiki page claims was the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark. I can’t find proof anywhere else that it is… (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best known as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger ManThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1951 Kate Atkinson, 71. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. The Life After Life duology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on usual suspects.
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 70. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fave films which is Darkman and finally she was Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 62. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out the Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. 
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 52. Best remembered for playing the trill Ezri Dax on the final season of Deep Space Nine, and as Sarah Bannerman on The Dead Zone. Well maybe not the latter I’ll admit. She’s done a number of genre films including Deepwater Black, Cube, Iron Invader, and Metal Tornado, and has one-offs in Beyond RealityForever KnightTekWarOuter LimitsPoltergeist: The LegacyPsi Factor and Stargate Atlantis. Did I mention she’s Canadian?
  • Born December 20, 1984 Ilean Almaguer, 38. Here for her role as Illa on the most excellent Counterpart series. If you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend it. To my knowledge, none of many the Spanish-language Mexican telenovelas she appeared in had the slightest genre element. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) TUNE IN. The BBC World Service is airing a production of Susan Cooper’s “The Dark Is Rising”.

A young boy’s time-travelling fight against ancient evil. When the Dark comes rising, who will hold it back? This dramatisation of Susan Cooper’s cult novel is a magical journey into the supernatural.

There currently are three episodes available with 26 to come.

(12) IRON MAN BACK TO THE PRESS. Gene Wolfe said in his 1985 Worldcon guest of honor speech that the difference between a professional publisher and a fanzine publisher is that if a fanzine sells out, the editor will print more. So what are we to make of Marvel’s enthusiastic announcement that Iron Man #1 is getting a second printing?

This past Wednesday, fans witnessed the beginning of an all-new era for Tony Stark in Invincible Iron Man #1! Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Juan Frigeri have taken over the armored Avenger’s adventures and didn’t pull any punches in their explosive first issue, which sold out and will return in February with a second printing!

 Invincible Iron #1 will receive two new second printing covers, both of which celebrate the character’s iconic legacy by showcasing the many armors Tony has suited up in over the years: A brand-new piece by superstar artist Mark Bagley and definitive Iron Man artist Bob Layton’s showstopping connecting piece in all its glory.

 Invincible Iron Man #1 ended with Tony Stark hitting rock bottom, having lost it all: his wealth…his fame…his friends. But don’t count Stark out just yet. In upcoming issues, Stark will navigate his new status in the Marvel Universe in surprising ways. Readers will see Iron Man court new allies, embrace bold solutions, and make startling moves that will affect his relationships with the Avengers and mutantkind. Is he building towards a brighter future or will he be the architect of further destruction? 

 (13) OH SNAP! SNAP! [Item by Daniel Dern.] If (movie version) Thanos sang or hummed along to the Addams Family theme song, would that quantumize 2x 50% or 50% of 50%?

(14) SOMETHING TO READ. Ted Gioia posted his picks for “The Best Online Essays & Articles of 2022”.

…Most of these are longform essays on music, arts, and culture—because those are matters I think about (and worry about) every day. But I don’t impose any arbitrary limits here. If the article is good enough, I include it, no matter what the subject….

First on the list – “A few things to know before stealing my 914” by Norman Garrett,

Dear Thief,

Welcome to my Porsche 914. I imagine that at this point (having found the door unlocked) your intention is to steal my car. Don’t be encouraged by this; the tumblers sheared off in 1978. I would have locked it up if I could, so don’t think you’re too clever or that I’m too lazy. However, now that you’re in the car, there are a few things you’re going to need to know. First, the battery is disconnected, so slide-hammering my ignition switch is not your first step. I leave the battery disconnected, not to foil hoodlums such as yourself, but because there is a mysterious current drain from the 40-year-old German wiring harness that I can’t locate and/or fix….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Honest Game Trailers: The Game Awards” sends up an awards show which finds it impossible to live up to its pretentions, saying it’s “an award show that wants to be taken as seriously as the Oscars except that every single year something absolutely ridiculous happens.” Mistakes were made, birds were flipped.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Todd Mason, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 12/12/22 Pixels Roasting On An Open Scroll

(1) USA TODAY BESTSELLER LIST MISSING. The USA Today Bestseller List is going “on hiatus” because USA Today/Gannett laid off the long-time employee who created the list on her own every week. A Publishers Lunch report explains:

As part of significant layoffs at USA Today and Gannett, approximately 200 newsroom employees were let go at the beginning of December, including longtime editor of the USA Today Best-Selling Books list Mary Cadden. She produced the list since 2007. 

Kathleen Schmidt  explains the many reasons the USA Today list is valued by indie and romance authors. Thread starts here.

Some writers say they trust the USA Today list more than the NYT and other bestseller lists because it’s based on real sales numbers. USA Today publisher Gannett says there will be an update after the beginning of the year.

(2) WORKING ARTISTS PREFERRED. At Whatever, John Scalzi has changed his personal policy on using AI-generated art, and comments on its appearance on a book cover from a major publisher: “An Update On My Thoughts on AI-Generated Art”.

Tor, which is the publisher of my novels, is being called out for using AI-generated art on a book cover; it appears that they got it from a stock art house. Getting graphic elements from stock art to modify on covers is a common enough practice — including on my own most recent novel cover — but the fact stock art houses are now stocking up on AI-generated art (which they then sell, undercutting creators) is, to put it mildly, not great. It’s possible Tor didn’t know (or didn’t pay attention to) the fact the stock art was AI-generated, but that doesn’t make it better, it kind of makes it worse.

So, two things here:

1. I’ll be emphasizing to Tor (and other publishers) that I expect my covers to have art that is 100% human-derived, even if stock art elements are used;

2. For now I’m done with AI art in public settings. As much fun as it has been to play with, the fact it’s already migrating onto “Big Five” covers is troubling, and I think it’s more important to stand with and support visual artists than it is to show off things I’ve generated through prompts on social media….

(3) CHINA’S NEW AI-MEDIA POLICY. Meanwhile, Ars Technica is reporting China has instituted new regulations requiring AI-produced media be clearly identified. The regulations cover AI-generated images, video, audio/voice, and text. They are said to be intended to promote AI-generated art while simultaneously preventing deception by requiring watermarks and forbidding their removal: “China bans AI-generated media without watermarks”.

China’s Cyberspace Administration recently issued regulations prohibiting the creation of AI-generated media without clear labels, such as watermarks—among other policies—reports The Register. The new rules come as part of China’s evolving response to the generative AI trend that has swept the tech world in 2022, and they will take effect on January 10, 2023.

In China, the Cyberspace Administration oversees the regulation, oversight, and censorship of the Internet. Under the new regulations, the administration will keep a closer eye on what it calls “deep synthesis” technology….

Under the regulations, new deep synthesis products will be subject to a security assessment from the government. Each product must be found in compliance with the regulations before it can be released. Also, the administration particularly emphasizes the requirement for obvious “marks” (such as watermarks) that denote AI-generated content…

(4) DIAGRAM PRIZE. The Bookseller announced that the 2022 Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year was won by RuPedagogies of Realness: Essays on Teaching and Learning with RuPaul’s Drag Race, edited by Lindsay Bryde & Tommy Mayberry, claiming 39% of the popular vote. Finishing in second place: What Nudism Exposes: An Unconventional History of Postwar Canada. And in third place, Jane Austen and the Buddha: Teachers of Enlightenment.  

(5) HARPERCOLLINS STRIKER INTERVIEW. “Fresh Off the Picket Line with Rachel Kambury” is a free episode of the Creating a Print Run podcast on Laura Zats and Erik Hane’s Patreon.

This week we were lucky enough to have HarperCollins associate editor Rachel Kambury on the show, and we talked to her all about her union’s strike, what about their working conditions led them to this historic moment, and how the industry might change in light of this watershed moment in publishing-worker solidarity. We thought it was important for folks to hear directly from the HarperCollins workers, and we’re very grateful for Rachel joining us to talk about her experience firsthand.

(6) DEEP DIVE INTO HUNGARIAN SFF. Here’s an English-language article about “Hungarian Speculative Fiction: Forceful, Vicious, Viscous” by Austin Wagner at Hungarian Literature Online. It covers genre history in Hungary from pre-WWII to the present.

…As for a few writers whose names you should know who haven’t yet popped up, László Sepsi and Attila Veres are two I would highlight. You can see an excerpt from Sepsi’s novel Termőtestek (Fruiting Bodieshere, shortlisted for the 2022 Péter Zsoldos award, and Attila Veres published a new book this year, A valóság helyreállítása (The Restoration of Reality), a horror novel—rarer in Hungary than other spec fic sub-genres—that shares the name of his 2021 Zsoldos award-winning short story. Even more importantly for the non-Hungarians out there, Veres’ collection of horror short stories, The Black Maybe: Liminal Tales, is now available from Valancourt Books in Luca Karafiáth’s translation. Or if you’re looking for something that straddles the traditional line between genre fiction and “high” literature, you could look to Imre Bartók’s trilogy Virágba borult világvége (The Blossoming End of the World)—though be wary as to what you should expect, as Sándor Szélesi cautions in this extensive essay on spec fic—or any of the absurd, Hungarofuturist work of Márió Z. Nemes….

The Skulls in the Stars blog also gives a strong recommendation to Attila Veres in its review of his short story collection: “The Black Maybe, by Attila Veres”.

I first encountered the work of Attila Veres in the first volume of The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories, which came out in late 2020. The series, now on volume 2, collects the best works of foreign horror authors from around the world, and brings their works together for an English speaking audience, often for the first time. The collection is fantastic all the way through, but the story of Hungarian author Attila Veres stood out to me as “one of the most impressively horrific and nasty things I’ve ever read.” Evidently many people agreed, because Valancourt Books has published the first English edition of the short stories of Attila Veres, The Black Maybe….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

2001 [By Cat Eldridge.]

Tonight for this Scroll we have a statue of another writer, the man who created Sherlock Holmes and other equally interesting characters such as Professor Challenger and humorous stories about the Napoleonic soldier Brigadier Gerard, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In 1909 Doyle moved to Crowborough where he lived until his death in 1931. He built Windlesham Manor, a large house in which he wrote more novels. He was buried in his garden, but his wife had his remains moved into the family vault in 1935.

This bronze full-length statue of Arthur Conan Doyle is located on the corner of Beacon Road and London Road in Crowborough. 

The Conan Doyle Statue Trust was set up to raise funds for this Statue and with the financial help from the Town Council and other various donations, the statue now stands at Cloke’s Comer. 

Their Patron, Mrs. Georgina Doyle unveiled the Statue on April 14, 2001.

It was created by local sculptor David Cornell who is now eighty-seven and who had quite amazing artistic life.

The inscription on the front of its stone plinth reads: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Resident of Crowborough, 1907 – 193

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 12, 1944 Ginjer Buchanan, 78. Longtime Editor-in-Chief at Ace Books and Roc Books. She retired from Ace in 2014. She received a Hugo for Best Editor, Long Form at Loncon 3. She has a novel, White Silence, in the Highlander metaverse, and three short stories in anthologies edited by Mike Resnick. And she’s a Browncoat as she has an essay, “Who Killed Firefly?” in the Jane Espenson edited Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
  • Born December 12, 1949 Bill Nighy, 73. He’s got a very, very long genre association staring with being an unnamed ENT physician in Curse of the Pink Panther. He was Martin Barton in The Phantom of the Opera, Edward Gardner in Fairy Tale: A True Story, Viktor In Underworld and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Philip in Shaun of the Dead, a hilarious Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a quite unrecognizable-as-him Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Rufus Scrimgeour In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1… I’m stopping right before this get really long. Fortunately his television genre credits may be limited to an uncredited appearance in the “Vincent and the Doctor” episode of Dr. Who as Dr. Black.
  • Born December 12, 1956 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale The Feather of Finist the Falcon. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writers such as Mercedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies, and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon after falling on harsh circumstances. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man some twenty-five years ago, “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”. (Died 2012,)
  • Born December 12, 1966 Hiromi Goto, 56. Winner of the Otherwise Award for The Kappa Child. She followed that with two more SFF novels, The Water of Possibility and Half WorldSystems Fail, the 2014 WisCon Guest of Honor publication, highlighted her work and that of N.K. Jemisin. Hopeful Monsters, her collection of early genre short fiction, is the only such work available digitally from her. Shadow Life, her graphic novel which may or not be genre, came out last year. 
  • Born December 12, 1970 Jennifer Connelly, 52. Her first genre outing wasn’t as Sarah Williams in Labyrinth, but rather in the decidedly more low-budget Italian horror film Phenomena.  She goes to be in The Rocketeer as Jenny Blake, and Dark City as Emma Murdoch / Anna, both great roles for her. I’m giving a pass to the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still which she was involved in and not saying anything about it. Alita: Battle Angel in which she’s Dr. Chiren scores decently with audiences. 
  • Born December 12, 1976 Tim Pratt, 46. I think his best work was his very first novel which was The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl but there’s no doubt that later work such as The Constantine AfflictionBone Shop and The Stormglass Protocol are equally superb. That’s not to overlook his short fiction which if you’ve not tried it you should, and I’d recommend Little Gods as a good place to start. His latest is the Twilight Imperium space opera series.
  • Born December 12, 1981 C.S. E. Cooney, 41. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Sea King’s Second Bride” and a World Fantasy Award for her Bone Swans collection. She has what appears to be a very short novel out, Desdemona and the Deep, published by Tor.com. The latter and her collection are available digitally on Apple Books, Kindle and Kobo. 

(9) EVOLUTION OF THE WRITING WORKSHOP. The Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust is promoting “Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop,” a new online educational program begun in 2022. The deadline to apply is March 13, 2023. More information about the workshop is available here.

YPO provides an intensive, one-on-one workshop experience, customized for each individual student. The program combines the renowned Odyssey lectures by top authors and editors, deep practice, expert feedback, and extensive mentorship with Odyssey director Jeanne Cavelos.

YPO was designed with the flexibility to make it possible for a wider range of writers to attend. The customized nature of the program also allows it to be much more effective in helping writers improve. Students are able to choose their own pace, taking the workshop over 6 weeks, 12 weeks, or 18 weeks; choose which writing topics they study and in what order; repeat a topic to delve deeper into content; and design individual assignments to address their writing weaknesses and build on their strengths.

For the twelve students admitted in 2023, six scholarships are available, including the Fresh Voices scholarship for an outstanding writer of color, and the Walter and Kattie Metcalf Singing Spider Scholarship for a fantasy novelist who shows great skill and promise.

(10) BRACE YOURSELF. “US scientists reach long-awaited nuclear fusion breakthrough, source says”: CNN reports there will be an official announcement on Tuesday.

For the first time ever, US scientists at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain, a source familiar with the project confirmed to CNN.

The US Department of Energy is expected to officially announce the breakthrough Tuesday.

The result of the experiment would be a massive step in a decadeslong quest to unleash an infinite source of clean energy that could help end dependence on fossil fuels. Researchers for decades have attempted to recreate nuclear fusion – replicating the fusion that powers the sun.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will make an announcement Tuesday on a “major scientific breakthrough,” the department announced Sunday. The breakthrough was first reported by the Financial Times….

(11) SEASON’S READINGS. Publishing Perspectives tells about project to bring a set of rare books online: “Digitizing Its ‘Christmas Books’: Cambridge University Press”.

…These are not Christmas books in the sense of titles themed on Christmas. They’re called the press’ Christmas books because they were given to industry associates and customers at Christmas, in no small part as promotional pieces.

In most cases, only some 100 copies were made of a single title, and all of them were given away to “friends in printing and publishing.”

This meant that Cambridge University Press itself didn’t have a complete set of these rare editions, the last of which was produced in 1973. Starting in 2014, the press has been working to pull together a complete set of its own, drawing on “a mixture of donations and detective work.”…

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Martin Short and Steve Martin in Saturday Night Live’s grotesquely funny “A Christmas Carol”. (Maybe I shouldn’t have given up on them in the middle of the opening monologue?)

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Bence Pintér, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 12/10/22 Pixel Was A Scrollin’ Stone

(1) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] After a long drought, we get our second and third in the space of two days!

LL95 match day 22 Q3: What 1898 novel, famous in its own right, is also famous for its presentation in the October 30, 1938 installment of the CBS radio series “Mercury Theater on the Air”?

Filers no doubt will readily identify this as The War of the Worlds, and LLamas knew it too, with an 83% get rate.

Same match day, question 5: “SDCIWC” is an initialism common to many players of the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. Per the game’s original 1974 rules, the first four letters stand for Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, and Intelligence. What do either of the final two letters stand for?

This was Wisdom or Charisma. Get rate was 65%, with 6% of players giving the most common wrong answer “Courage”.

(2) FTC HANGS UP ON CALL OF DUTY. “F.T.C. Sues to Block Microsoft’s $69 Billion Acquisition of Activision” – the New York Times covers the government’s grounds for a suit.

The Federal Trade Commission, in one of the most aggressive actions taken by federal regulators in decades to check the power of the tech industry’s giants, on Thursday sued to block Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of the video game maker Activision Blizzard.

The F.T.C. said that the deal would harm consumers because Microsoft could use Activision’s blockbuster games like Call of Duty to lure gamers from rivals. The agency’s commissioners voted 3to 1 to approve filing the suit.

The decision is a blow to the expansion of Microsoft’s video game business, which has become its most important consumer unit and topped $16 billion in annual sales during the most recent fiscal year. For the F.T.C. chair, Lina Khan, a legal scholar who rocketed to fame after she wrote an article criticizing Amazon, the lawsuit will test whether her aggressive plan to rein in the power of Big Tech can survive in the courts….

(3) YOUNG WOLVES. Wolf Pack, the newest release by Edo van Belkom, is the inspiration behind a new TV series coming to Paramount+ on January 26, 2023.

Nothing gets between a wolf and its pack…

Most of the time, Noble, Argus, Harlan and Tora are like any other teenagers. Prowling the halls of their high school in search of new crushes and true friendships, all while trying to keep up their grades. Except these teens are anything but ordinary…

Discovered as wolf cubs in the wilderness of Redstone Forest, the pack knows their adoptive parents are the only humans they can trust with their shape-shifting secret. So whenever the siblings want to wolf around, they race to the forest to run—and relish their special bond. Until the terrible day a TV crew films their shocking transformation—and Tora is captured by a scientist determined to reveal her supernatural abilities to the world.

Now the brothers will do anything to get their sister back. Even if it means taking their powers to a whole new level by becoming werewolves for the very first time–something their parents warned them never to attempt. But once the teens go to the dark side, will they ever make it back to the only life they’ve ever known?

Available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

Bram Stoker and Aurora Award-winner Edo van Belkom is the author of over 200 stories of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. As an editor, he has four anthologies to his credit that include two books for young adults, Be Afraid! (A Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book of the Year finalist) and Be Very Afraid! (An Aurora Award winner — Best Work in English).

(4) ARTIFICIAL STUDENT INTELLIGENCE. The Atlantic’s article “ChatGPT Will End High-School English” is mostly paywalled, but there’s the beginning:

Teenagers have always found ways around doing the hard work of actual learning. CliffsNotes date back to the 1950s, “No Fear Shakespeare” puts the playwright into modern English, YouTube offers literary analysis and historical explication from numerous amateurs and professionals, and so on. For as long as those shortcuts have existed, however, one big part of education has remained inescapable: writing. Barring outright plagiarism, students have always arrived at that moment when they’re on their own with a blank page, staring down a blinking cursor, the essay waiting to be written.

Now that might be about to change. The arrival of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, a program that generates sophisticated text in response to any prompt you can imagine, may signal the end of writing assignments altogether—and maybe even the end of writing as a gatekeeper, a metric for intelligence, a teachable skill.

If you’re looking for historical analogues, this would be like the printing press, the steam drill, and the light bulb having a baby, and that baby having access to the entire corpus of human knowledge and understanding. My life—and the lives of thousands of other teachers and professors, tutors and administrators—is about to drastically change….

(5) DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO. Nicholas Barber’s review for the BBC “Pinocchio: The scariest children’s story ever written” includes spoilers. Like these in the very first paragraph:

Two major Pinocchio films premiered this year, but it isn’t too difficult to tell them apart. One of them is Robert Zemeckis’s live-action remake of the 1940 Walt Disney cartoon, with Tom Hanks as a cuddly Geppetto, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt providing the voice of Jiminy Cricket. The other, directed by Guillermo del Toro, has Geppetto’s flesh-and-blood son being killed by a World War Two bomb, Geppetto (David Bradley) carving a wooden boy in a drunken fury, and Mussolini’s fascists ruling over Italy. And then there are the deaths, plural, of the title character. “Pinocchio dies in our film three or four times,” del Toro tells BBC Culture, “and has a dialogue with Death, and Death teaches him that the only way you can really have a human existence is if you have death at the end of it. There are roughly 60 versions of Pinocchio on film, and I would bet hard money that that doesn’t exist in any of the other 60.”…

(6) GARY FRIEDKIN (1952-2022). Actor Gary Friedkin, who made his film debut as a four-foot-tall Munchkin in the 1981 comedy Under the Rainbow, died December 2 of Covid complications. His other genre appearances include, uncredited, in Blade Runner and as an Ewok in Return of the Jedi.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1994 [By Cat Eldridge.] Dorothy L Sayers

Now we have a statue of a mystery writer which you will notice includes her SJW credential. 

The statue of Dorothy L Sayers and stands in Newland Street, Witham, opposite the Witham Library, and also opposite her house.

The statue was cast in bronze, about six and feet tall tall, by the Ardbronze Foundry and designed by John Doubleday, the sculptor who did the Sherlock Holmes sculptures we talked about in the Scroll last night. It was erected in 1994. 

An amusing note: several commenters online say that you can see that quite a few children and even adults like to pet Blitz, Sayer’s feline companion — he is now quite shiny on top!

A very, very not amusing note: it was privately funded through sale of much smaller statues as the British government didn’t think she was worthy of have a statue and wouldn’t fund it saying that she lacked literary worth. Fans of Ngaio Marsh need not apply. 

The plinth bears the inscription: Dorothy L. Sayers 1893 – 1957 and the name John Doubleday, Sculptor with the foundry name.

Witham Library holds a reference collection of all of her works, press-clippings, all of her reviews and letters in the Dorothy L Sayers Centre, which is jointly managed by Essex Libraries and the Dorothy L Sayers Society, and which is held in a specially outfitted room on the upper floor.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 10, 1815 Ada Lovelace. English mathematician and writer, principally known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Genre usage includes William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine and S.M. Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers. (Died 1852.)
  • Born December 10, 1824 George MacDonald. Scottish author I think best known for Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women and The Princess and The Goblin. His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors including C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, G. K. Chesterton and Madeleine L’Engle to name but a few who mention him. The Waterboys titled their Room to Roam album after a passage in Phantastes. (Died 1905.)
  • Born December 10, 1903 Mary Norton. Author of The Borrowers which won the 1952 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognizing the novel as the year’s outstanding children’s book by a British author. She would continue to write these novels for three decades with Hallmark turning it into a film in the early seventies. Her novels The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons and Bonfires and Broomsticks would be adapted into the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks in the same period. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 10, 1907 Graves Gladney. An illustrator known for his cover paintings for Street & Smith pulp magazines, especially The Shadow. He produced all the covers from April 1939 to the end of 1941, and here’s one of his covers from June 1st, 1939. It’s worth noting that when he replaced The Shadow‘s cover artist George Rozen who did a more fantastical approach to the covers, Gladney depicted an actual scene that Walter Gibson had written in a story inside. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 10, 1927 Anthony Coburn. Australian writer and producer who spent most of his career living and working in the U.K. He was closely involved in the earliest days of Who to the extent that it’s believed it was his idea for the Doctor’s travelling companion, Susan, to be The Doctor’s granddaughter.  He wrote four scripts for the show, of which only An Unearthly Child was used. (Died 1977.)
  • Born December 10, 1953 Janny Wurts, 69. Illustrator and writer.  She’s won three Chesley Awards, plus a HOMer Award for her Servant of the Empire novel. I strongly recommend the Empire trilogy that she co-authored with Raymond E. Feist, and her excellent That Way Lies Camelot collection was nominated for a BFA.
  • Born December 10, 1984 Helen Oyeyemi, 38. I like it when a Birthday results in my adding to my audiobook listening list. She’s resident in Prague now and her take on European folktales that surround her there is particularly sharp in Mr. Fox, which was nominated for an Otherwise Award, off that well known tale. And White is for Witching has all the makings of a damn fine haunted house story. Now one should not overlook her Icarus Girl, her first novel, which is fascinating. I’ve not encountered Gingerbread, her latest novel. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys shows a 20th Century answer to a 19th predicament that may not end as well for Tiny Tim.
  • Tom Gauld gives season’s greetings to a UFO.
  • In another cartoon, Tom Gauld renders a brutal translation of a familiar academic conversation.

(10) IT ONCE WAS WET. Yesterday’s Science journal reports from Mars: “Organic geochemistry in Jezero crater”.

The Perseverance rover has investigated the floor of Jezero crater on Mars, finding that it consists of igneous rocks that were modified by reactions with liquid water (aqueous alteration). Scheller et al. used the rover to perform Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy of rocks at two locations within the crater. They identified the presence of organic molecules, including aromatics with one and two benzene rings. The presence of perchlorates allowed the authors to set a limit of more than 2 billion years for the last time water filled the crater. Carbonates and sulphates were also found. The results demonstrate that the rocks in Jezero crater contain a record of ancient organic geochemistry.

Primary research paper here.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended presents “How Black Adam Should Have Ended”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, David Goldfarb, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]